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L I B R.A R_Y 

OF THE 

U N IVLRSITY 

Of ILLINOIS 

823 

Mi"84* 
v. 3 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/sackclothbroadcl03midd 



SACKCLOTH AND BROADCLOTH. 



A NOVEL. 



BY 



JEAN MIDDLEMASS, 



AUTHOR OF 'WILD GEORGIE, 'SEALED BY A KISS, ' INNOCENCE AT PLAY, 
ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL. III. 



TINSLEY BROTHERS, 

CATHERINE STREET, STRAND, 

LONDON. 

i 88 i. 

\_All Rights reservtd.'] 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH. 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth 




CHAPTER I. 

ON THE RIVIERA. 
And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.' 

UCH, allegorically, was Claire 
Bailey's state, as, after accom- 
panying her mother from place 
to place on the continent, they finally settled 
down for a while at Mentone, the last station 
on that renowned line of outworks against 
'Pallida Mors,' known as the Riviera. 
Claire's father had died at an early age 
from consumption ; this Lady Laura bore 
ever in mind as she watched through the 
different stages of her child's depression, and 

VOL. III. a 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



noted the ravages sorrow was making on her 
fresh young face. 

That Claire was fretting incessantly there 
was little doubt, the more so, perhaps, 
because she but rarely alluded to the cause 
of her distress ; and it will easily be 
conceived that, if the child was suffering 
acutely, the mother suffered even more; 
also, that by far the deepest throes these 
two unselfish natures were enduring, were 
caused by the silent but only too apparent 
sorrow of each other. Had Lady Laura 
been a father or a brother, she would pro- 
bably have railed furiously against Matthew, 
perhaps even, as actually happened in a 
celebrated instance not many years ago, 
might she have driven up to his paternal 
seat in a four-in-hand, surrounded by influ- 
ential friends, and demanded, in tones as 
stern as they were courteous, explanation 
and satisfaction. But patient, refined, high- 
minded Lady Laura was only a woman ; what 



On the Riviera. 



could she do in her anguish, her just anger, 
her despair, but live on, pray, and be patient. 
Letters from home came but seldom, 
and when they did come, the tidings 
they brought were scarcely inspiriting. 
Matthew had written more than once, but 
Lady Laura noted the flush on Claire's face 
as she opened his missives, and how it 
became overcast as she finished reading 
them, and she felt seriously inclined to for- 
bid the correspondence, only perhaps she 
was a little afraid of what effect another 
violent and sudden wrench might have on 
her child. It was a strange whim, which, 
possessing itself of Matthew's mind at this 
time, made him write pages on pages about 
Lady Valentina to Claire, while to the 
former he had never once spoken of 
his little self-exiled love. Perhaps when 
Claire left England she still retained a 
lingering hope that all was not positively 
and for ever at an end between her and 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



Matthew ; but now the image of the stately 
Valentina, as he describes her, with her 
queenly beauty, her composure and her 
sterling sense, helping him through all 
the difficult bits of life, seems ever to 
stand conspicuously between them. And 
as she pictures her rival, the last faint 
scintilla of hope dies out of Claire's heart. 
That Matthew deserves censure for Claire's 
sufferings there is little doubt ; still he is 
not as much to blame as Lady Laura 
supposes. 

Although Valentina, with her fascination 
of manner ; fascinating, that is, to Matthew — 
since she possesses the very strength of will 
in which he himself is wanting — has come 
between them, yet he has never entirely with- 
drawn his allegiance to Claire. He considers 
himself as much bound to her now as on 
the day when, mounted on Prig, he led her 
across the meadow to Swanover, and asked 
her mother's consent to their union. He is 



On the Riviera. 



merely doing as many another man has 
done before him — he is playing with two 
hearts. Whether honour will win or lose in 
the struggle remains to be proved, the issue 
depending on a great extent on how much 
sincere honest loyalty Matthew's developing 
character will evince. In extenuation, too, of 
his seemingly heartless conduct, be it re- 
membered he has no idea of the amount 
of pain Claire is enduring. She had herself 
suggested a cancelling of their engagement. 
She had gone abroad without even telling 
him of her intention ; for all he knew she 
was enjoying herself excessively, for her 
letters, ever uncomplaining, were always 
kind and cheerful. Had any mutual friend 
hinted to Matthew that pretty Claire, down 
on the Riviera, was fretting her life away, on 
his account, the human kindness with which 
his nature abounded, if no stronger feeling, 
would have taken him at once to Mentone 
to learn the truth for himself. But no word 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



came to him save from her own pen, so, con- 
demning her a little in his heart for cold- 
ness and want of regard for his feelings, 
he dawdled by Lady Valentina's side, and 
left the affair with Claire to ripen or die 
out, according as the time and place of 
their next meeting should influence the 
atmosphere of their hearts. 

Meanwhile everything that could be done 
to distract her mind was put into practice 
by her anxious mother, even at the risk of 
burdening her conscience and of shocking 
Mr Lently, should he happen to learn what 
was passing, for Claire had been taken to 
pass a few fleeting hours watching the play 
at Monte Carlo. Even that haunt of tem- 
pestuous pleasure, with its eager uproarious 
throng, failed however to afford her excite- 
ment. 

She wandered about the 'gilded halls,' 
and felt a little heartsick at the pictures of 
life there represented ; she would ask her 



On the Riviera. 



mother not to bring her again — she thought 
surely it were better to be moped and sad 
than to take part in such a scene as that. 
Then she turned to the window and stood 
leaning against it, gazing dreamily on fair 
nature as she lay around clad in loveliest 
sheen, as though striving, by her beauty, 
to lure away the crowd within the rooms 
from the fascinations of her powerful rival — 
the green table. Had they all been of 
Claire's mind the feat had not been difficult, 
but ' Messieurs faites voire jeu] ' Le jeu est 
fait' ' Rien ne va plus', 'Sept', l Noir' ' Im- 
paire et impasse] went on incessantly around 
her as she stood and looked into the world 
beyond ; while Lady Laura, half amused, half 
saddened by the scene, was loitering a few 
yards off. 

' Miss Bailey ! ' exclaimed a voice close to 
Claire, as though in a tone of wonder at her 
presence there. 

She turned instantly, then held out her 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



hand to a young man, who had more than 
once been her partner at dances in the 
neighbourhood of Swanover. 

' You here ? I had no idea,' he almost 
stammered. 

Claire coloured up ; his words seemed to 
imply a reproach, while in reality he was 
vexed at being himself caught following to 
its fullest bent the pleasures offered by 
the goddess Play Young Leverton had a 
great respect for the Baileys, and he 
scarcely wanted them to know that he had 
lost large sums that he could ill afford, 
which they evitably would do from some 
of the chatterers at Monte Carlo. 

Claire's answer somewhat reassured him, 
however. 

' We have only come over from Mentone 
for an hour or two. I have been ill, and 
mamma thought the place would amuse me, 
but it does not.' 

1 Doesn't amuse you ? How odd ! Why, 



On the Riviera, 



this room represents life in more varied 
phases than any other in Europe.' 

' Very likely ; but to look at the people 
here makes me, oh, so miserable ! I hope 
you have not come to play, Mr Leverton ? ' 

' I only arrived about four days ago,' 
he answered, falling back once again into 
stammering. ' I was at home this day last 
week.' 

' Tell me, how is everything looking round 
about Swanover ? Ravensholme, and all 
the poor people, I wonder how they are ? ' 

Yes, Claire's heart was at Swanover, and 
Lady Laura, who from where she was 
standing heard this conversation, began to 
think so. 

Mr Leverton was scarcely the sort of man 
to be able to give her a detailed account of 
the ailments and requirements of all the 
Ravensholme cottagers. He tried, however, 
as well as he could, to furnish her with some 
home news. 



i o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 The Desboroughs have come back from 
London/ 

Ah, yes ; the mention of that name did 
interest Claire, for her colour heightened as 
he spoke. 

1 Lord Beaurepaire and his daughter have 
accompanied them,' he went on. ' I have 
met Lady Valentina driving about with 
Mrs Desborough once or twice ; such a 
beautiful, distinguished - looking girl. . Do 
you know her, Miss Bailey ? ' 

An almost inarticulate 'No' fell from 
Claire's white lips. 

1 Oh, you will admire her so much, and 
every one says she is as nice as she is 
handsome. I am quite in love with her ; 
but it is no use, for I am afraid some one 
else is in the field before me. Some one 
you know too, Miss Bailey.' 

Claire did not speak, and Lady Laura did 
not come to the rescue, because, never having 
heard anything about Matthew's friendship 



On the Riviera. 1 1 

with Lady Valentina, she did not note the 
danger signals, or guess what trouble these 
careless remarks were bringing to her child. 

Young Leverton went on ; he was only 
too glad to find what he supposed to be a 
neutral topic for conversation, so as to keep 
off any allusion to gambling. 

' Of course the Desboroughs would like 
the match, they are so terribly addicted to 
swells — at least Mrs Desborough is, and 
everybody about seems to regard it as a 
settled thing.' 

Fortunately this last speech was too much 
to the point for Lady Laura any longer to 
mistake Mr Leverton's meaning. She held 
out her hand to the young man, who had 
not noticed her standing partly concealed by 
a curtain as she did. 

' How do you do, Mr Leverton ? Full of 
gossip from the home county ? I am glad 
to hear of old friends, but I think at this 
moment I am more especially anxious for 



1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

some descriptive account of the new faces 
by which we are surrounded. This room 
is a book that sorely wants an index. Can 
you supply it ? ' 

Now Mr Leverton was one of those men 
who hate to be supposed not to know every- 
thing and everybody who either legitimately 
or illegitimately has made any mark in the 
world. Of course he knew the biographies 
and genealogies of at least half of the there 
assembled crowd, and he began forthwith to 
tell her how the fat pompous man over there 
was a general, who had married beneath him 
that pretty-looking woman without one ■ h ' 
in her whole vocabulary ; then he proceeded 
to relate how M — was the lover of 

Madame ; how the wife of Sir Lewis 

J — had come there with the husband of 
Lady C — , till Lady Laura would fain have 
closed her ears against the horrible tale of 
fashionable depravity, and at any other time 
would have silenced him with authority, only 



On the Riviera. 



anything was better than the discussion of 
Matthew Desborough and English news. 
Finding therefore a pleased ready listener 
as he thought in Lady Laura, whom till that 
moment Mr Leverton had believed to be 
a little strait-laced, he drew such a vivid 
sketch of Monaco life and manners that 
the mother, ever thinking of her child, 
looked round to see what effect this initia- 
tion into the details of fast ways and habits 
might have on her ; but Claire was men- 
tally far away in a dreamland of her own, 
where Matthew, not Mr Leverton, was 
playing the prominent part. She scarcely 
heard that he was speaking, much less did 
she take in the subject of his discourse. 
She did not heed him, or would have shown 
her disapproval, for nothing could be more 
repulsive to Claire's mind than a mfnute, 
almost eulogistic description of the lax con- 
dition of public morals, as it existed in the 
atmosphere around. To Lady Laura the 



1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

account was nauseating in its effect ; though 
she condemned gambling as a vice, she was 
little prepared to acknowledge the deep sub- 
stratum of iniquity which lay beneath the 
seemingly decent manners of the assembled 
throng. If only half Mr Leverton's account 
were true, this was scarcely a scene into 
which she ought to have conducted a pure" 
English girl, even with the strong incen- 
tive that Lady Laura had, and she felt 
almost inclined to make a formal excuse to 
Mr Leverton for her daughter's presence. 
But discretion overcame the desire to speak, 
especially as when she looked round and 
saw more than one girl walking about the 
rooms whose social position was quite the 
equal of Claire's. Alas for the laxity of an 
age in which the moral tone has so much 
degenerated ! 

Lady Laura waited for a pause in the 
young man's scandalous reminiscences, then 
she touched Claire gently on the arm. 



On the Riviera. 1 5 

4 We must go, my child, or we shall scarcely 
eet back to Mentone in time for dinner. If 
those dull quarters have any attraction for 
you, Mr Leverton, we shall be delighted to 
see you. I do not think we shall return 
here.' 

This was all gentle Lady Laura said in 
disapprobation. A better example was set 
by action than by speech, she was wont to 
aver. And they bade Mr Leverton good- 
bye, and wandered through the gardens, 
making rather a circuit to reach the carriage 
in which they had driven from Mentone. 

'A foolish babbling boy,' was Lady Lauras 
stricture on Leverton, as she walked beside 
Claire, ' he has told me stories about half the 
people in the room — he knows far too much 
to be accurate in his knowledge ; in fact, 
God grant he may not be so.' 

Claire did not answer, the only gossip she 
had heard from Mr Leverton had Matthew's 
letters to verify it ; thus, how could she 



t 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

flatter herself that it was untrue ? Had he 
not written pages about Lady Valentina ? 
What then more likely than, now that he 
had a large fortune to offer, he should make 
this great lady his wife. Poor little Claire 
was very humble about her own attributes, and 
she was quite ready to believe that she was 
very inferior in every way to Lady Valen= 
tina. It was only natural, she thought, that 
Matthew should be impressed by this great 
beauty, since every one agreed she was so 
handsome and so good and nice ; but still 
it was very very hard to bear, and the 
thought of her rival made her very unhappy, 
notwithstanding the excuse of perfection 
with which Claire tried to invest her. 

All the way back to Mentone Claire was 
quite silent, and Lady Laura wished they had 
never eone to Monte Carlo, or at all events 

o 

had not met Mr Leverton there. Arrived 
at the hotel, there was a letter from Matthew 7 
lying on the table. It contained only a few, 



On the Riviera. 



17 



a very few lines, simply stating the fact that 
he was going home shortly to Vantage. His 
reasons for throwing up his work so abruptly 
he did not give her ; it would not have 
occurred to Matthew to treat Claire to the 
long dissertations about Wharton's philo- 
sophy he had inflicted on Valentina. What, 
then, could she suppose but that he was 
going to Vantage solely for Valentina's sake, 
and with an ' Ah! ' that to Lady Laura's quick 
ear was pregnant with meaning, she thrust 
the letter into her pocket and walked away 
to change her dress for dinner. 




VOL. III. 



CHAPTER II. 



PAIRING. 




,T was the first spring day. The 
party from Montarlis Castle had 
driven over to luncheon at Vant- 
age, where of course they met the never- 
failing Mr Sivewright. 

It is not to be supposed that Mrs Des- 
borough, because she occasionally assembled 
her friends round her, grieved for and talked 
of her son George any the less ; quite the 
contrary, only hers was not the sort of 
nature that could pine in solitude. No, her 
sorrow required an audience to stimulate it ; 
but about all things Mrs Desborough, in 
society's world and in the private recesses 



Pairing. \ 9 



of her own apartment, was a very different 
individual. 

After luncheon a walk had been sucrg-ested 
by Violet, and seconded by Lord Beaure- 
paire. No one else seemed particularly 
inclined to sally forth, till it occurred to 
Lady Valentina that it were as well per- 
haps that she should accompany them, in 
order to chaperone her father, and then Mr 
Sivewright offered to make one of the 
party. So they sallied forth, leaving Mrs 
Desborough to pour her sorrows into the 
duchess's sympathetic ear, while the squire 
dawdled through the afternoon by himself 
in his own room, where, however, his studies 
made by no means the valuable progress 
they used to do before the death of his 
elder son. For hours he would sit among 
his papers without looking at them, his 
thoughts far away. He was fretting out his 
heart in solitude, and yet his wife invariably 
gave him credit for caring more for his fusty 



20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

researches than for the passing away of a 
whole line of Desboroughs. How apt are 
quiet undemonstrative natures to be wholly 
misunderstood ! 

An opportunity to begin a conversation 
with Mr Sivewright about Matthew was 
just what Lady Valentina had been seeking 
for the last two days. During this walk 
surely an auspicious moment would offer 
itself, and so it did, for Mr Sivewright was 
almost as anxious to sound Lady Valentina 
on the subject of her feelings for Matthew as 
the young lady was to extract from him his 
opinions anent Matthew's longer residence 
in the Whartonian household. 

As far as playing chaperone to Lord 
Beaurepaire went, Lady Valentina soon dis- 
covered that she might as well have re- 
mained indoors ; he and Mrs Tremayne 
paired off forthwith, walking a great deal 
faster than would have suited the style of 
the queenly Valentina, who was thus left 



Pairing. 2 1 

nolens volens in the charge of the Rev. 
Lawrence, in whom she had a far more 
ardent admirer than she in the very least 
suspected. She knew that Mr Sivewright 
was the mundane friend as well as the 
spiritual director of both the duchess and 
Mrs Desborough, and that when those ladies 
were together it was with some difficulty 
that he contrived to divide his attention so 
equally as to give dissatisfaction to neither. 
She also knew that Mr Sivewright objected 
strongly to Mrs Tremayne. For this very 
reason, perhaps, she herself had first con- 
ceived a regard for him ; but what she did 
not know was, that the Vicar of Fern- 
wood-cum-Grasdale had more than once 
thought that to render that same vicarage 
quite Utopian, was wanting the presence 
of such a superb aristocratic beauty as was 
the Lady Valentina. True, for many years 
Mr Sivewright had deemed that it would 
be ill in accordance with his highly philo- 



2 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

sophical tendencies to shackle their freedom 
by putting his neck into the matrimonial 
noose ; but the acquaintance he had lately 
formed with Lady Valentina had made him 
to a great extent forego his ideas on the 
subject. Only there was Matthew ; he was 
not quite sure about the reciprocal feelings 
of these two young people, and the Rev. 
Lawrence Sivewright was keenly alive to 
the fact that his entering the lists as the 
rival of Matthew Desborough would be 
essentially ridiculous. It was not because 
he believed his chance of success to be in- 
ferior to Matthew's that he took this view 
of the case, but simply because he thought 
a passage at arms between him and this boy 
would be absurd. 

They sauntered on slowly together for 
some time, talking pleasantly and intellectu- 
ally. Mr Sivewright, be it observed, was 
partial to the society of intellectual women, 
the duchess, perhaps, being the only one 



Pairing. 2 3 

of his ' very dear friends ' in whom physical 
attractions were the sole fascination. Lady 
Valentina was not clever in the strict sense 
of the word ; her brain was incapable of 
producing a single original idea ; but she 
was well read, and remembering what she 
had read, was always prepared to reproduce 
it at the right moment. Thus she presented 
a very good imitation of a blue stocking ; 
moreover, she never condescended to talk 
nonsense. 

At last, when they had passed the vicar- 
age house, gone across the glebe, through 
a wood there was to the left, walked about 
two miles in fact, always keeping Lord 
Beaurepaire and Mrs Tremayne more or 
less in view, Lady Valentina began the 
subject she had been seeking to introduce 
ever since they started from Vantage. It 
came up quite naturally at this juncture. 
They had been discussing the political posi- 
tion of Europe, and had somehow strayed 



24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

into a conversation on its relations with pro- 
phecy, of which Lady Valentina had been 
reading in some recently published pamphlet. 
It was a relation which Mr Sivewright 
scouted, and he refuted the argument ad- 
duced with so much energy and cleverness, 
that Lady Valentina exclaimed, — 

1 How charming it is to hear you talk ! 
So strange that in London I do not know 
a single clergyman intimately, so have no 
one to put me right in matters of difficulty. 
I often do wish I had some master-mind 
to consult.' 

The Rev. Lawrence smiled benignly; per- 
haps he took this speech of Valentina's for 
encouragement. She went on, — 

' I have had it in my head for the last 
two days to ask you about something, Mr 
Sivewright. I wonder if you would mind ? ' 

1 In anything that I can be of service to 
you, Lady Valentina, pray command me- 
al ways.' 



Pairing. 



' It is a matter of conscience/ she said, 
looking rather shy and speaking very low, 
as she proceeded to state her case to the 
divine whose opinion she craved, while 
Mr Sivewright looked consciously grateful 
for the choice which had fallen on him. 
Although no confessor by name or practice, 
nothing afforded him more gratification than 
to be selected as the confidential possessor 
of the catalogue raisonnd of a woman's 
shortcomings. 

1 Say on, dear lady, and be assured of my 
secrecy and discretion.' 

'Well, you know, Mr Sivewright, I have 
been brought up from babyhood in good 
old-fashioned Church of England principles. 
Ritualism perplexes me, while Heterodoxy, as 
it presents itself in the so-called philosophical 
opinions of the day, seems so contrary to 
everything one has been taught to believe, 
that it quite frightens me.' 

'Why go out of the good old-established 



2 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

path to investigate either creed ? ' asked Mr 
Sivewright, while he looked just a little bit 
disappointed. Probably he had expected a 
different confession. 

1 One cannot always close one's ears to 
every call,' answered Lady Valentina, ' espe- 
cially when the voice that asks counsel of 
you is that of a friend.' 

1 No, truly. But unless I know the precise 
facts of the case, I cannot give an opinion.' 

* Confidentially, then, it is about Matthew 
Desborough I want to speak to you,' and 
Lady Valentina blushed, while Mr Sivewright 
— but no, he did not change countenance, he 
only looked as though he would fain read 
her through and through. 

Matthew Desborough ! when would Mat- 
thew Desborough's affairs cease to be the 
main topic of discussion among his friends, 
he wondered ; but he concealed from Lady 
Valentina the knowledge that this subject 
had begun to bore him. 



Pairing. 2 7 

1 Poor Matthew ! ' he said, after a second's 
pause. ' Has he been getting into fresh 
difficulties. I am afraid he is of too sensi- 
tive a nature to make much way against 
the troubles and temptations of life.' 

1 That is just it. Matthew is scrupulous 
and conscientious to a fault — not that I think 
it a fault — there must be something so grand, 
so honest, so saint-like in a character that is 
in constant fear of acting disloyally both to 
God and man ; but knowing as we do what 
Matthew feels about all these things, don't 
you think we ought to help him as much as 
we can out of difficulties, instead of urging 
him into them ? ' 

' Who has been urging him into diffi- 
culties ? ' 

1 I am afraid you and I are not exempt.' 

1 How so?' 

4 Well, you know, Mr Sivewright, that 
since poor George Desborough's death 
Matthew has been a great deal with us, 



2 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

and both my father and I take the very live- 
liest interest in him — in fact one cannot 
help doing so, he is so very amiable and con- 
fiding. I think, too, he sets some store 
on our — that is, on my opinion.' 

Mr Sivewright smiled, but did not speak, 
but he thought he saw Lady Valentina 
rapidly disappearing from the imaginary 
place she had held for a brief space in 
Fernwood Vicarage. She went on, — 

'A short time ago I advised Matthew to 
return to Mr Wharton's for a few months, 
so as to fit himself by study and argument 
the better to hold his position in life. I 
have, however, since had cause to waver in 
my judgment.' 

' And your reasons are ? ' 

1 That I don't believe Mr Wharton to be 
a Christian.' 

' Ah ! What has that to do with 
Matthew's secular studies ? ' 

1 Mr Sivewright, I am surprised. I thought 



Pairing. 29 



that you, as a clergyman, would be shocked 
and horrified.' 

The Rev. Lawrence scarcely liked to feel 
that he had lost way with Lady Valentina, 
so he shifted his ground somewhat, and 
said rather sternly for him, — 

1 Lady Valentina, I may speak to you, 
candidly may I not, as to a woman possess- 
ing much common sense ? ' 

She bowed her head and accepted the 
compliment. 

1 There has been far too much talk and 
fuss made over Matthew. He has been 
coddled and all his fancies listened to, till he 
has become a mental malade imaginaire. 
Why on earth should he not rough it with 
other young men ? Now that he is heir of 
Vantage, the question of orders is, I pre- 
sume, set at rest for ever. Let him go 'then 
where he can learn the greatest amount 
about life in the shortest possible time. 
Books will not teach him the things he 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



ought to know, or transform him from a sick 
hermit into a hale squire.' 

* You are rather severe, Mr Sivewright,' 
she remarked, for no one perhaps had 
ever heard so much acerbity in the Rev. 
Lawrence's tones before. 

' The case merits it/ he answered ; 'they 
are the truest friends to Matthew who do 
not pamper him.' 

Pamper him ! had she been pampering 
him, she wondered, and they walked along 
for some little distance together without 
speaking ; each was holding a mirror in 
order to reflect feeling, both rather unsuc- 
cessfully, as feelings seldom allow themselves 
to be clearly and distinctly reflected. When 
next they spoke, the subject of Matthew, 
which evidently irritated Mr Sivewright as 
much as a man of his placid temperament 
could be irritated, was waived, and he said 
in his usual bland unctuous voice, — 

' A lovely bit of landscape just here ; it is 



Pairing. 3 1 

worthy of Constable. I hope you appreci- 
ate the art that represents nature faithfully, 
Lady Valentina ? ' 

She did not paint herself, but was an 
ardent admirer of fine pictures, had been in 
many of the great continental galleries, and 
so they fell to discussing the varied features 
of the several European schools, Mr Sive- 
wright interesting as well as surprising Lady 
Valentina not a little by his knowledge 
and remarks, during which Matthew's fierce 
struggles with life were alike forgotten by 
them both, till at last this discussion was 
interrupted by their coming abruptly on the 
other couple, who, not knowing the country 
as well as Mr Sivewright did, had followed a 
path which they supposed would take them 
back to Vantage, but which had circuitously 
led them back to its commencement. 

It mattered but little whether a conversa- 
tion on art were continued or arrested, it 
could be resumed at any moment; but the 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



topic Lord Beaurepaire and the pretty widow- 
had been discussing was evidently of a much 
more delicate nature. The old earl looked 
earnest and devoted, while on Violet's face 
there was a deep flush. She sprang towards 
Lady Valentina when she saw her, thereby 
disengaging her hand from that of Lord 
Beaurepaire, and hoping that the little 
manoeuvre might pass unperceived. She 
looked at Mr Sivewright : by the cynical 
curl of his lip she knew that nothing had 
escaped him. Had the duchess gained 
his silence. That was all she hoped ? 

' We have been wondering where you 
had strolled to, Mrs Tremayne ? We 
scarcely expected to find our lost Pearl at 
this corner.' 

A paleness, as of death, spread itself over 
Violet's face, so much so that Lady Valen- 
tina, though disliking her most intensely, yet 
felt her womanly kindness aroused as she 
looked at her, for she said with less hauteur 



Pairing. 3 3 



than she usually displayed when addressing 
Mrs Tremayne. 

1 You seem tired. Shall we sit on the 
trunk of this old tree for a few minutes ? 
The air is so balmy we can scarcely take 
cold.' 

A very few minutes' rest, and the gentle- 
men suggested that a chill might come if 
they stayed longer, and having delegated to 
Mr Sivewright the office of pioneer, the little 
party set off for Vantage by a short route. 
The pairing, however, for that day was at 
an end. Lady Valentina and Mrs Tre- 
mayne walked together, the two men a few 
paces in front. Either Violet did not care 
to trust the Rev. Lawrence alone with Lady 
Valentina after what he had just said, or 
she was a little ashamed of the very flagrant 
flirtation in which she had been surprised, 
for she remained close to Lady Valentina's 
side, making herself so agreeable and fas- 
cinating all the while, that by the time they 
vol. in. c 



34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

had reached Vantage Lady Valentina had 
almost forgotten her prejudices against Mrs 
Tremayne. True, she was a little preoccu- 
pied about her own affairs. Her conversa- 
tion with Mr Sivewright, as far as Matthew 
was concerned, had proved unsuccessful ; she 
must advise on her own responsibility, and 
when she went to her room to rest for an 
hour before dinner, she employed her time 
in writing a long letter to Matthew, which, 
though it was kind and full of sense, yet 
was scarcely as practical as Lady Valen- 
tina's opinions usually were. The fact being 
that she was almost as perplexed- on this 
matter as was Matthew himself. In a few 
days perhaps a light would break in order to 
show them which way they should walk, 
she hoped ; that is if she watched for it, 
which she was fully resolved to do. Then 
she sat looking at the letter as it lay sealed 
ready for the letter-bag in front of her. 

' Why trust to the result of a few days 



Pairing. 35 

waiting and the light that might never come,' 
was the next bit of true womanly reason- 
ing, so she opened the letter, not to read 
it, but in order to add a postscript. 

1 Surely a little country air would do you 
good ? Why do you not come home for a 
time and discuss the matter with your own 
people ? ' 

Was this suggestion of Lady Valentina's 
made in all good faith, or was it not rather 
the result of an almost unacknowledged crav- 
ing to see Matthew once again ? Even in 
strong natures like Lady Valentina's, how 
impossible it is at all times to analyse the 
heart's emotions. 



CHAPTER III. 



LOVE TURNED TO HATE. 




EVOTION of my life— radiant 
star of my old age — if Valentina 
were only married.' 
Muttering these fragments to himself, Mr 
John Varley, alias Cheap Jack, walks slowly 
along the road till he reaches the gate lead- 
ing into the Fernwood glebe, through which 
he had passed with Mr Sivewright about ten 
days ago. He perches himself on the top 
bar, and his elbows on his knees, his head 
on his hands, he betakes himself to thinking. 
He has not selected the most comfortable 
of seats ; but then the fact of his early habits 
having been acrobatic perhaps accounts for 



Love turned to Hate. 



his indifference on the subject. The yellow 
' shay ' and the infinitesimal tiger are in the 
courtyard of the Hurton Commercial Inn ; 
they have been there for days, while Varley 
himself, entirely neglecting the pursuit of his 
calling, wanders in a desultory manner about 
the country in the hope of meeting the lost 
Pearl he has refound in such a strange setting. 
Poor Jack ! the dream of his life had been 
to find this girl again, but while his position 
in the world naturally threw him into the 
society of rough coarse companions, whose 
coarseness and roughness from very use he 
failed to remark, still among them an in- 
stinctive reticence forbade the mention of 
Pearl, and kept concealed from vulgar gaze 
the latent poetry of his nature, of which 
not one of Cheap Jack's associates would 
for a moment have guessed the existence. 
He had spoken truly when he told Violet 
that he would rather not have refound his 
Pearl than have found her where he did. 



38 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

The gorgeous gems of society by which she 
was surrounded, if they were not envied by 
Cheap Jack for their lustre, were hated 
because they shed a portion of it over his 
more modest jewel, raising her almost to an 
equal place with themselves in the dazzling 
bouquet of precious stones. He hated the 
Duke and Duchess of Montarlis, the Des- 
boroughs of Vantage, for robbing him of his 
treasure ; above all, he hated that courteous 
grand old peer whom he had heard pour- 
ing burning loving words into Violet's ear 
as he was loitering about the Vantage woods, 
in the hope perchance of seeing her again. 

As Jack Varley, in his blouse and velvet 
cap, sat doubled up on the top bar of 
the gate, he was a comic picture ; still the 
feelings that raged within the somewhat 
ludicrous exterior, savoured more of tragedy 
than comedy. 

Strong passions had been aroused, passions 
which had probably been lying dormant in 



Love turned to Hate, 39 

Jack Varley's heart for years ; love had, as 
in a flash, been matured to its full strength, 
to be over-ruled only by a more intense 
emotion — jealousy — and we know 

i One master passion in the breast 
Like Aaron's serpent swallows up the rest' 

The basket maker's impetuous son had had 
but little education — least of all, had he been 
taught the great lesson of self-control ; more 
or less contact with the world had instructed 
him to keep his feelings in subjection, and, as 
far as trifling matters went, the lessons re- 
ceived later in life had proved satisfactory ; 
but now that a crushing mass of strong feel- 
ing had overtaken him, he cast all his small 
stock of tuition to the winds, and gave 
himself up entirely to be led wherever the 
raging bitterness of his feelings pleased to 
direct. Could Violet have seen him, as he 
sat there on the gate, she might have quailed 
before the aspect of the man she flattered 
herself would obey any word or wish of hers, 



40 Sackcloth and. Broadcloth. 

however faintly expressed. If she were in- 
deed his, his Pearl, the one gem in that 
tinselled life-diadem, which was all fate had 
bestowed on him, she might have held such 
sway ; but to see her fair beauty deck the 
coronet of that 'oily-mouthed aristocrat' — no. 
He would never be her slave unless he was 
her master too. That was the determination 
at which Jack Varley arrived while he sat 
brooding on the top of the parsonage gate. 
At last he jumped off his perch and stood 
leaning against the post. Shielding his eyes 
with his hand, he looked up and down the 
road. Glimmering twilight was overtaking 
the sunny beauty of the short day. He 
could see nothing, hear nothing. 

1 Yet they must pass along this way to 
Montarlis,' was his muttered remark. 

He was waiting for Pearl. His better 
genius prompted him to walk with rapid 
strides to Hurton, start off with his 'shay' 
and his ti^er at dawn on a lonor commercial 



Love turned to Hate. 4 1 

circuit in the adjacent counties, and be heard 
of in the neighbourhood of Montarlis no 
more — at least not for many months ; but 
the prompting was silenced angrily, and Jack 
Varley stood on in the gathering darkness, 
waiting till the Montarlis carriage should 
pass by that way. At last his patience was 
rewarded, if reward it were to endure the 
heart agony which overcame him as the 
ducal equipage stopped not ten yards from 
where he stood unseen in the gloom which 
had by this time deepened into night. He 
moved away from the post against which he 
had been leaning, and dropped back so as 
to be sheltered by the adjoining hedge. 

Mr Sivewright having been driven thus 
far on his way, got out of the carriage, and 
bade the two ladies ' Good evening.' 

1 Don't forget to-morrow ; dinner at a 
quarter to eight. We shall be quite a 
delightful party. I am so glad the Beaure- 
paires have persuaded dear Mrs Desborough 



42 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to accompany them ; moping will do her no 
good, and of course we shall ask no one 
but our own little set.' 

' So kind of you, duchess, so considerate,' 
and Mr Sivewright lifted his hat as he turned 
to pass into his own domain. 

1 Good-bye, Mr Sivewright. I hope the 
spring flowers you gathered in the wood 
to-day will shed their fragrance over your 
study to-night.' 

The duchess laid her hand on Mrs Tre- 
mayne's, as though imploring her to be 
silent ; while the vicar said archly, — 

' The wood violets are scarcely yet in 
bloom ; that floweret still wants hot-house 
forcing.' 

' I assure you I found a handful,' she cried 
gaily, as the carriage drove off. She felt so 
sure of Lord Beaurepaire that she thought 
she could afford to bandy words with the 
vicar, than which nothing amused her more, 
because, knowing herself to be an expert, 



Love turned to Hate. 43 

there was a charm in a skirmish with one 
who usually contrived that she should come 
off second best in the tussle. 

Mr Sivewright opened the gate and passed 
into the field beyond. For a moment he 
thought he heard some one moving, and 
stopped to listen, but deciding that the 
sound existed solely in his imagination, he 
went on towards the house. 

During that moment Cheap Jack had felt 
half inclined to detain the vicar, and once 
more make him his confidant ; but the idea 
that ' his reverence ' would only, as he was 
in duty bound, try to make things square, 
prevented him, and he remained quietly 
hiding in the hedge till the vicar's footfalls 
had quite died away in the distance. Then 
he crept slowly forth and took the road for 
Hurton, walking rather as a man who has 
no purpose in life, than the active, business- 
like trader he had been but a short time 
since. 



44 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

There was nothing Varley could have told 
Mr Sivewright that he did not already know. 
He had felt thoroughly convinced of Violet 
Tremayne's identity with Pearl long before 
the knowledge had dawned upon her old 
adorer. Up to this time the vicar, except 
by occasional stray shots at the lady her- 
self, had kept his convictions to himselfr 
He did not consider it was exactly befitting 
a man of his dignity to seek to untie the 
many knots in which society loved to tangle 
itself, unless, indeed, one of gordian pro- 
portions should be presented to him. He 
made it his practice, however, on all occa- 
sions to be au courant with every detail in 
the lives of those with whom he came in 
daily contact, reserving the right of conduct- 
ing the private affairs of his congregation 
and their relations, whenever circumstances 
induced him to consider that his assistance 
would tend to his own importance or ad- 
vantage. No greater autocrat than this 



Love turned to Hate. 45 

* moral teacher/ who abjured the title of 
priest. 

When he reached his luxurious study, in 
which a wood fire was burning brightly, and 
over which a shaded reading lamp was shed- 
ding its subdued light, he sat down in his 
arm-chair and stretched himself as he looked 
round. Opposite to him was a vacant chair. 
For a moment he thought how well Lady 
Valentina would fill it ; then followed a dread 
of woman's invasion among the Lares and 
Penates which had grown dear to the 
bachelor's heart ; and Mr Sivewright smiled 
complacently to himself as the little drama, .in 
which Matthew, Claire Bailey, Lady Valen- 
tina, and all the other dramatis personce took 
part, seemed to be enacted before his eyes. 
Only when his mind's eye fell on Violet 
Tremayne his brow darkened. To Mr 
Sivewright, who believed thoroughly in the 
fitness of things, it seemed quite out of 
keeping that she should marry Lord Beau- 



46 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

repaire ; though with the justness on which, 
even as though he had been a judge, he 
prided himself, he would certainly have de- 
creed that it would be equally incongruous 
for her to give up the position she had 
made for herself in society, and throw in her 
fortunes with those of Cheap Jack Varley. 
The itinerant hawker was right in his con- 
jectures that a conversation with his rever- 
ence would not help matters. 

1 He'd only try to salve him over with fine 
words, so as to keep him quiet ; ' and as he 
wended his way towards Hurton, the feelings 
raging in his heart grew more and more bitter, 
and Mrs Tremayne, if she did not play her 
cards carefully and cleverly, ran a chance of 
being worsted in the game of life by her old 
acquaintance and playmate. Love turned to 
hate. What so dangerous for a woman, 
especially when the change occurs in a heart 
unaccustomed to submit to control. 

Violet, meanwhile, was gushingly relating 



Love ttirned to Hate. 47 

to the duchess, as they drove to Montarlis, 
how Lord Beaurepaire had nearly come ' to 
the scratch,' as she slangily called it ; and 
how that tiresome vicar invariably put his 
head into her path at the ' very most in- 
convenient moments.' The duchess lay back 
in her corner of the carriage, and smiled 
at the relation. She never tried to stop 
the hardihood of Violet's talk when they 
were alone ; perhaps hoping that by letting 
her have her free scope in private, she 
would be more amenable to reason when 
listeners were present. 

1 But old Sivewright didn't sneer or look 
odious.' She finished her account bystating, — 
1 I suppose you have been speaking to him, 
Julia ? ' 

1 No, indeed, I have not. To say truly, I 
have not had the courage. I began the sub- 
ject the other evening while you were singing 
to the duke, but he either did not, or would 
not, see that the confidence — confession, if 



48 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

you like — was a grave one. Perhaps he 
thought the occasion unfitting ; none has 
arisen since.' 

1 Then, for goodness' sake make one. 
Send for him to-morrow morning. Endless 
mischief may happen if you defer it.' 

' But what can I say ? What excuse can 
I make ? ' 

' Let me see. Flowers — that is such a 
sweetly innocent subject. I am sure those 
camellias in the conservatory look most 
sickly, and Perkins does not understand 
them one bit. Mr Sivewright, you know, 
is a horticulturist of the first order.' 

' Oh, Violet, there is nothing the matter 
with the camellias.' 

' But there shall be by the morning.' 

' Oh, pray don't tamper with the flowers ; 
the duke will be so angry.' 

1 To avert his anger, Mr Sivewright must 
be sent for to resuscitate the poor faded 
darlings,' and Violet laughed heartily. 



Love turned to Hate. 49 

To her crooked nature this little subterfuge 
and plot gave much greater satisfaction than 
any straightforward action would have done. 
The duchess, however, was by no means so 
happy at the idea. Of a placid tempera- 
ment, she loved repose ; scheming was her 
particular aversion. If this marriage of 
Violet's with Lord Beaurepaire would only 
enable her to float lazily along the stream 
of life, how grateful would she be ! Violet, 
with her incessant demands for service, and 
her threats, was an incubus under the weight 
of which the poor duchess laboured painfully. 

1 I suppose you must do as you like,' she 
said, in a tragically resigned tone, which, 
however, only had the effect of evoking a 
peal of merry laughter from her companion. 

' You poor dear old frightened Julia, 
only one little effort more, and we will both 
sail along the world's bubbling stream in 
such safe barges that our most determined 
foes will find it difficult to upset us.' 

VOL. III. d 



5<D Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

'Ah!' 

The duchess had evidently less belief in 
the future than had her sanguine friend, 
and she felt in no mood for gushing over 
prospective happiness. 

4 If Violet were only dead,' was her secret 
wish. 

But a bete noire never dies, and this per- 
haps the duchess thought as she looked out 
of the carriage window into the darkness, 
and declined entirely to reciprocate the affec- 
tionate embrace with which Mrs Tremayne's 
last words had been accompanied. A few 
minutes more and they drove up to the 
great door at Montarlis. 

Violet sprang out. 

' I must stretch myself. I am cramped to 
death by sitting so long/ and instead of going 
into the house, she disappeared down a side 
walk leading to the gardens. 

No one took any notice. The servants 
were used to her unconventional ways, and 



Love turned to Hate. 5 r 

the duchess was powerless to stop her, though 
there was a very preoccupied look in her face 
as she went to find the duke and give him an 
account of her adventures, as she was wont 
to do after an absence of a few hours. 

1 What will he say when he is informed in 
the morning, that all the camellias are dying, 
and why cannot Mr Sivewright be brought 
to Montarlis without this tiresome plot ?' 

Why, indeed, but because Violet enjoys the 
fun of it, and never thinks of following a 
direct route when an indirect one is in the 
least likely to produce an adventure. 

The duke's indignation with Perkins, 
Mr Sivewright's suggestions, the duchess's 
anxiety of countenance, will all contribute 
to Violet's amusement, and amusement she 
must have. Even with so important an 
issue as the happiness of her future life at 
stake, she cannot forego her passion for 
gratifying a love of frolic at the expense 
of the feelings of other people. 

LIBRARY 



UNIVERSITY 



nc ftn*"Vf 



CHAPTER IV. 



THE EAVES OF SWANOVER 




HE parti carrd at Vantage Park 
are dawdling over the ten o'clock 
breakfast ; Lord Beaurepaire and 
Mr Desborough having entangled themselves, 
and even the ladies, in rather a warm discus- 
sion, the subject being the relative positions 
of the Vicars of Fernwood and Ravensholme. 
From his charm of manner and scholarly 
attainments, Mr Sivewright, as a man, carries 
off the palm with Lord Beaurepaire, as he 
does with every one ; but the earl's old- 
fashioned religious prejudices have mean- 
time been shocked by some of Mr Sive- 
wright's very broad tenets. Neither Lord 



The Eaves of Swanover. 53 

Beaurepaire nor his daughter had by any 
degree reached the climax of excitement to 
which religious inquiry — in these days when 
every one is determined to sift out truth for 
himself — had led many of their intimates. 
Yet during the last few weeks they had both 
of them more or less joined in the quest. 
Matthew had been the first to awaken Valen- 
tina's mind to the fact that there were many 
points to be considered and weighed, which 
had never entered into the humdrum prosaic 
routine of her steady-going, high and dry 
belief. Perhaps, too, the zealous youth who 
had come to them as a sort of messenger from 
another realm had, to a certain degree, in- 
noculated Lord Beaurepaire with some of his 
opinions ; for if Matthew had scarcely enough 
weight to convert the old peer to his views, 
he had at all events set both him and his 
daughter thinking, a process which life at 
Vantage by no means stinted in its growth. 
Daily did they hear the opinions and doings 



54 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

of the two adjacent clergymen discussed, as it 
befell, too, in the Vantage household, without 
wrath. The squire was a gentle Christian- 
tempered man, who never reviled his neigh- 
bour, but always sought to sift the wheat 
from the tares in every character. 

Mr Lently's exaggeration in matters of 
detail he regarded as the unhappy consequence 
of over zeal. Truth being told, perhaps the 
squire inclined more to Lently than to Sive- 
wright ; but Fernwood was his parish church, 
and as a landowner and county magistrate, 
he did not think he should be justified in 
forsaking it. If you had pressed the 
squire very closely, you would probably have 
discovered that he deplored the want of 
spirituality in Mr Sivewright, while at the 
same time he appreciated to the fullest his 
truthfulness and sincerity. As for Mrs Des- 
borough, there is little doubt that she would 
have plunged as determinedly as Matthew 
did into the vortex of ritualism, if the man 



The Eaves of Swanover. 55 

Lawrence Sivewright had not stood between 
her and the priest, Luke Lently. 

Cast suddenly into the midst of these con- 
flicting emotions, is it strange that Lady 
Valentina's mind should be rent by new ideas, 
or that at times she should hold her aching 
brow and feel inclined to exclaim, ' No plea- 
sure is comparable to the standing upon the 
vantage ground of truth, a hill not to be 
commanded, and where the air is always clear 
and serene, and to see the errors and wan- 
derings and mists and tempests in this vale 
below.' But this happy state of affairs was 
not to be for her, at least not yet ; so rich 
an inheritance as the possession of a settled 
conviction is seldom attained, save after 
stemming a strong current of trial and diffi- 
culty. She had been listening for the last 
hour to a detailed account of how Mr Lently 
had set agoing every possible piece of re- 
ligious machinery in his parish, and she 
had secretly revered him for his zeal, even 



56 Sackcloth aud Broadcloth. 

though she could not help agreeing with her 
father that too much fervour was injurious 
to a good cause. 

' If one could only strike the balance be- 
tween these two vicars, what a model man 
you would have. Eh, Desborough ? ' his 
lordship had remarked ; but Lady Valentina 
gave the squire no time to answer. Quot-, 
ing readily from the Revelations, she said,— 

1 " I know thy works, that thou art neither 
hot nor cold. I would thou wert cold or 
hot." ' 

' Lady Valentina is right,' exclaimed Mrs 
Desborough, ' there is no evil so great as 
lukewarmness. Violent opinions, one way 
or the other, wake us from sleep and set 
us thinking.' 

' Just so, just so, if the clergy were all 
Lentlys,' answered his lordship, ' that would 
be the thing for the masses ; such doctrine 
as Sivewright preaches is very much like 
giving strong meat to babes.' 



The Eaves of Swanover. 5 7 

' Yet every one has not the faith to grasp 
Mr Lently's ideal.' 

1 Alas, no ! and I doubt if Mr Sivewright's 
ministering would promote its cultivation.' 

' No one can accuse Mr Sivewright of 
trying to tamper with an existing faith ; he 
is too honourable and right-minded,' said 
Mrs Desborough rather pointedly. 

' Well, well, I fail to see the merit of that 
non-interference. Either Sivewright must 
think his opinions right, or he must think 
them wrong — they cannot be both. If he 
considers them right, and that he is justified 
in holding them, then surely he should be 
desirous that the whole world should have 
the benefit of his teaching.' 

1 All minds are not constituted alike,' said 
Mrs Desborough, as though in extenuation. 

' Religion can scarcely be treated - as a 
piece of india-rubber, and made to fit our 
minds. On the contrary, our minds must 
be made to fit it,' by which it may be in- 



58 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ferred that Lord Beaurepaire's leaning was 
decidedly for Lently ; not individually, since 
his acquaintance with him was very slight, 
but for his teaching, which had perhaps lost 
some of its austerity by being filtered 
through Matthew's gentle nature. How the 
same opinions lose or gain in love, accord- 
ing to the spirit of him who teaches ! 

A prolonged argument about the various 
creeds which suited different temperaments 
was, however, arrested ; a loud barking of 
dogs in the stable-yard, and then the sound 
of wheels rumbling up the carriage drive, 
suggested a general move to the window, 
as visitors at that hour of the morning 
did not frequently arrive at Vantage. 

1 Who can it be ? Oh, it is only a hired fly ; 
some one on business with Mr Desborough, 
no doubt,' and the lady of the house walked 
away as though a little impatient at the 
spurious interest which had been awakened. 
But the exclamation of ' Matthew ! ' uttered 



The Eaves of Swanove?'. 5 9 

by Lord Beaurepaire, made her return once 
more to the 'post of observation.' 

Yes, there he was, looking handsomer 
than ever, his bright eyes beaming as 
he waved his hand in recognition to the 
little party standing at the dining - room 
window. He had taken Lady Valentina at 
her word, and started off at once on the 
receipt of her letter, travelling all night in 
his impetuous way ; and the flush on her 
face as she beheld him bore ample testi- 
mony that the arrival was no unwelcome 
one. Both his father and mother were too 
pleased to see him to ask why he was 
there. That no evil tidings had brought 
him was obvious from the complacent look 
on his face, in the expression of which 
there was a joyousness it but seldom bore, 
produced probably by his delight at. see- 
ing Valentina again. While some fresh 
breakfast was being prepared for him, his 
mother, however, could not resist asking him 



6o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



why he had come back to them so very 
unexpectedly. 

' I was getting very tired of London, and 
was wearying to see the old place again,' 
was, however, the only answer she received. 

It did not tell her much, though it proved 
that Matthew's heart was at Vantage. Since 
Lord Beaurepaire had become interested in 
the rival doctrines which were flourishing in 
the parishes of Fernwood and Ravensholme, 
and had heard them discussed ad nazpseam, 
as had been the case during the last ten 
days, he had arrived at a full understand- 
ing of why Matthew Desborough's opinions 
were wanting in firmness. Love and faith 
his warm heart demanded, these he sought 
and thought he had found in Lently's creed, 
only to have them trampled on as mere 
fallacies by the sterner more realistic doc- 
trines preached in the parish church. It 
was a severe trial and an unfair one. Lord 
Beaurepaire could not help feeling this 



The Eaves of Swanover. 6 1 

rending of a young aspiring nature between 
two such conflicting elements ; and as he 
walked up and down the room, while 
Matthew ate his breakfast, the ladies 
chatted, and the squire stood by the fire, 
silently watching the boy he was henceforth 
to regard as his heir, Lord Beaurepaire 
revolved more facts in his mind in connec- 
tion with Matthew's life and character than 
had ever occurred to any of his relations, 
astute woman though his mother was. 

He fully understood why it was difficult for 
a nature, whose key-note was love, to grapple 
with the various and knotty points of doctrine 
which were so frequently the topic of discus- 
sion in his home. Doubtless much, very 
much, of the weakness apparent in Matthew's 
character was to be ascribed to education. 
Could Lently and Sivewright, the two ruling 
spirits of the religious neighbourhood, have 
been induced to a certain degree to give 
in, and meet half way on neutral ground, 



62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Matthew's career would probably have been 
totally different. No one who saw him now, 
as he sat talking and eating by turns, a 
fresh colour in his cheeks, a bright light 
in his large eyes, could do otherwise than 
admire, perhaps love him ; while to a think- 
ing mind would come perchance the reflec- 
tion that all that was most regrettable about 
Matthew was scarcely his fault. He was 
the victim of a desperate struggle, with 
too malleable a nature not to be more 
or less impressed by the opinions of each 
faction. 

So engrossed was Lord Beaurepaire by 
the contemplation of this subject, that every 
one had left the dining-room, and he still 
found himself walking up and down in deep 
meditation over Matthew's affairs. Possibly 
his lordship suspected the link that Cupid 
was surreptitiously forging between Matthew 
and Valentina, and in many ways it gave 
him satisfaction, for he loved the boy and 



The Eaves of Swanover. 6 



respected his zeal, while he perhaps de- 
plored that it was always directed quite in 
the same channel. Finding himself alone, 
Lord Beaurepaire betook himself to his own 
room, several subjects at this issue required 
careful thought, added to which he was more 
or less of a studious man. Instead of elect- 
ing to pass the morning in isolation from his 
fellows, had he wandered about the grounds 
and noted Matthew's movements, he might 
perhaps have changed his opinions some- 
what, that is as regards Valentina. 

No sooner had Matthew escaped from the 
society of his mother and Valentina, and 
considering that he had travelled by express 
to the north on purpose to be with them, he 
did so with much speed, than he went out on a 
solitary ramble. Either by instinct or design 
his footsteps led him to Swanover Cottage. 
It looked deserted enough, with its closed 
shutters and dreary stillness, yet Matthew 
wandered round and round, as though ex- 



64 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

pecting at each instant that light, life, and 
happiness would be awakened there. He him- 
self had been instrumental in their silence. 
Why should he wish, even almost expect, that 
they would come back for him as he longed ? 
He sat down on a bench, where in the 
last soft autumn-tide he had often sat 
with Claire, and fell to thinking. He loved 
Claire ; yes, of that there was little doubt, 
her pure sweet spirit never seemed to leave 
the atmosphere wherein he dwelt ; but was 
not his love for her rather that of man for 
angels. Was she not as a kind, gentle, 
sympathising guardian spirit, who smiled 
when he was seeking after righteousness, 
sorrowed when the lower demons tempted 
him to sin ; such love as this would never fill 
the void in his life, whereas Valentina — ah ! 
what he felt for Valentina was an absorbing 
passion ; while she, no, there was little of 
the guardian angel about her. As a woman 
she strengthened him in his weakness, helped 



The Eaves of Swanover, 65 

him in his difficulties, and loved him, because 
love for the first time awakened in her heart, 
she did not seek to silence its cry. She 
loved him ! How did Matthew know that 
Valentina loved him ? Simply by circum- 
stantial evidence, still this very evidence, at 
times gave him more pain than pleasure; 
for how could he lay his allegiance unswerv- 
ingly at Lady Valentina's feet, when honour 
told him that he had already placed it at the 
disposal of another ? Poor Matthew ! verily 
his life of late had become an almost unsolv- 
able problem. As he sat on the bench 
among the leafless trees in the little wood 
near Swanover Cottage, all the buoyancy his 
features had displayed on his arrival from 
London in the morning had quite departed. 
He had been really glad to see Valentina 
again, so glad that he had escaped from her 
presence almost as soon as he had gained it, 
in order to obtain an hour of self-com- 
muning ; all the while mentally censuring 
vol. in. E 



66 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

himself for his apparent neglect. Could she 
have seen him, as he lounged among the 
shades of the departed Claire, how many 
hours would have elapsed before Lady Valen- 
tina's trunks would have been packed, and 
she herself on her way to Belgrave Square ? 
Still she could scarcely be called injured in 
Matthew's heart tussle. Poor Claire, living 
on the expectation of a chance word from 
or about him, was the real victim. 

What should he do ? was the question 
he asked himself repeatedly as he lay 
there pondering. Notwithstanding his new 
heirship, and all the responsibilities it in- 
volved, should he take orders and foreswear 
the sex ? Not according to IVJr Sivewright 
— but Lently — should he go to Lently ? 

Then came the tremendous question, 
was he prepared to abide by Mr 
Lently's decision, whatever that decision 
might be ? 

' He objects strongly to my marriage with 



The Eaves of ' Swanover, 67 

Claire, and, after all, that ought really to be 
the consummation. Poor little Claire, she 
loves me very much ; but I doubt if she 
thinks I am good enough for her. She 
ought to marry a real saint. She would be 
much more unhappy about my uncertain 
faith than ever Valentina would be. Ah 
me, I wish we had not met that day in the 
thunder shower, then all this difficult ques- 
tioning would have been spared me. If I 
referred the matter to my mother, I know 
she would decide for Valentina ; but poor 
little darling Claire, I would not make her 
unhappy for the world ! She gave me up, 
yes ; but I refused to accept the offer, and 
I am as much pledged to Claire as though 
we had been man and wife this twelve- 
month. 

1 There will be an immense amount of home 
contradiction ; but that must be overcome. 
If a man feels he is in the right, naturally 
he can withstand a good deal. Perhaps it 



68 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

would be as well to tell Lady Valentina at 
once of my engagement to Claire, and so put 
the matter, as far as she is concerned, beyond 
any farther doubt.' 

Thus, under the eaves of Swanover, all 
the truth and chivalry in Matthew's nature 
were aroused, and even at the sacrifice of his 
own present inclinations he determined to 
act loyally. Strange and wayward freak of 
purpose that had made him decide for 
Claire, two hours after travelling a long cold 
journey in order to see and consult with 
Valentina ! 

1 If a man only does what is right, he is 
sure to be happy ! ' he murmured half aloud 
as he at last got up and strolled off through 
the wood, still farther from Vantage. 

Strong determination seemed on a sudden 
to have come to Matthew, inspired, may be, 
by the silent shades of Claires forsaken 
home, for he walked very decidedly through 
the wood, across the road, and over the stile 



The Eaves of Swanover. 



6 9 



to the field which led direct to Ravens- 
holme, with the vicar of which village 
he had had no communication since the day 
they parted in anger on the subject of 
his pending marriage. 





CHAPTER V. 

BOUDOIR CONFESSION. 

H ETHER really or fictitiously, the 
duchess, on the morning following 
her visit to Vantage, found herself 
considerably indisposed. Indisposed, that is 
to say, after the fashion of fine ladies who 
lie artistically dressed in a peignoir of rich 
silk trimmed with costly lace on a boudoir 
sofa, and are only too pleased to receive 
visits from their intimate friends, male or 
female. 

The Duchess of Montarlis did not as a 
habit indulge in this luxury, still she was 
sufficiently imbued with the spirit of the 
times to permit herself the use of a now 



Boudoir Confession. 7 r 

prevailing custom, when the exigencies of her 
imposed role demanded it. 

It was such an easy way out of all the fuss 
there would be about those flowers, for of 
course the duke would brine Mr Sivewright 
to discuss their state with her, since she had 
made an effort to ask him to come and look 
at them, and naturally he would soon leave 
them for a chat. The duke was too busy a 
man to waste much time in his wife's boudoir, 
and then no occasion more fitting for the 
premeditated tete-d-tete. 

As the duchess had arranged in her mind, 
so, with the active Violet's co-operation, it 
befell ; she, meanwhile speeding off to pay 
her promised visit to Ravensholme, so as to 
be quite lost to view during the interview 
between the duchess and Mr Sivewright, 
from which she expected so much. 

The Vicar of Fernwood was very human 
and very keenly alive to the power of phy- 
sical beauty, it was surely therefore somewhat 



72 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

of a trial to find himself alone with the fair 
Julia in her snug boudoir, with its damask- 
covered walls, its heavy scent-laden atmo- 
sphere, and, above all, its beautiful mistress 
looking more superbly lovely than usual in 
her pink satin flowing robes. Perhaps Julia, 
duchess, had calculated on this when she 
planned the situation. The duchess were no- 
true woman had she not been perfectly aware 
that Mr Sivewright admired her, and to-day 
at least she was determined to make the 
fullest use of her knowledge. 

The faded camellias had been discussed 
before the duke. Perkins, that stupid Perkins 
had not only let the fires go out, but had left a 
bit of window open, he must have been drunk. 
Mr Sivewright suggested various scientific 
modes by which frost-touched plants might 
be revived, while the duchess vainly sought to 
appear interested about a subject which bored 
her to extinction, till the duke left to give some 
orders — then she turned to her clerical friend. 



Boudoir Confession. 73 

1 Pray let us talk of something else. I am 
quite tired of valves and pipes and flues. It 
is very tiresome no doubt, but the duke must 
order some fresh camellia plants. It is no 
use fussing.' 

There was a querulousness in her tone, 
which she evidently intended her pastor to 
notice. 

' Your grace does not seem well this 
morning. What is the matter, duchess ? ' 

' Everything is the matter. I am worried 
to death, and there is no one can help me 
but you.' 

1 I ? then you need no longer be worried — 
spiritual matters/ eh ? Since that last trip to 
Italy your scruples have grown. It is curious 
what a power aesthetics have over women. 
Lently was a wise man when he chose that 
line. If it were not for the duke, it is* my 
belief even you would follow him.' 

' ^Esthetics, Mr Sivewright, they have little 
to do with the question. It is the consolation 



74 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

of having something strong to lean on that 
takes one into that branch of the church 
which offers it. Every one is not strong 
enough to bear their own burden.' 

For a moment Mr Sivewright thought of 
his conversation with Mrs Desborough after 
George's death ; no doubt there was much 
truth in the duchess's observations, and per- 
haps he felt it was a mercy there was a 
haven provided for the weak. He did not, 
however, feel disposed to drive the duchess 
into Mr Lently's arms, so he said very 
courteously, — 

1 Let me hold yours for a few min-utes and 
see if I cannot reduce its weight.' 

Mr Sivewright proposing himself as con- 
fessor ! 

There was a topic for discussion among his 
opponents, did they but know it. Strange 
how in its details every prescribed faith, 
though widely different in external appear- 
ance, is akin. 



Bouaoir Confession. 75 

1 Violet Tremayne.' 

The duchess uttered this name very softly, 
and then she was silent. Mr Sivewright, 
however, being no dullard, understood at once 
the sort of annoyance from which she was 
suffering. He pulled his chair a little nearer 
to her grace's sofa, and said with much more 
than his usual energy, — 

1 Exactly, that is the very subject on which 
I should like an exhaustive talk with you. 
You know my opinion of Mrs Tremayne, we 
need not discuss that again ; but tell me, 
why is it necessary that she should be so 
much at Montarlis ? ' 

The duchess smiled very faintly. 

' Perhaps she may not be so much here in 
future if — ' 

1 If she marries Lord Beaurepaire, eh? My 
dear duchess, surely you cannot believe such 
a thing to be possible. She herself naturally 
would fly at the highest game ; but you — you 
cannot know much of Mrs Tremayne's pre- 



J 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

vious history if you think it will bear Beaure- 
paire scrutiny.' 

' I know all about it ; alas, more — much 
more than you do ; but I am bound to further 
this marriage, and I look to you to help me.' 

* To me — God forbid ! I have ever re- 
garded class mixture as a gross and un- 
pardonable mistake.' 

The duchess's white face grew even paler 
than usual, though she said with a smile, — 

( Oh, Mr Sivewright, you are as exacting 
as Lady Valentina. Do not be so severe 
on those who are not happy enough to lay 
claim to the pride of birth.' 

She tried to be jocular, but it was evident 
that the effort was almost too much for her. 

' Do you really mean, duchess, that you 
do not perceive the evils that must arise 
from a marriage where the contracting parties 
are not of the same social status ? ' 

1 Perceive them ? Oh yes, I perceive them 
all too well.' 



Boudoir Confession. yj 

And such a weary look came over her 
grace's face as she spoke, that Mr Sivewright 
paused in the diatribe he was about to com- 
mence against breaking down caste barriers, 
and suddenly changed his tone. 

' Tell me,' he said, ' what can I do for you 
in the matter of Mrs Tremayne ? She is a 
friend, I fear, who savours somewhat of a foe.' 

1 If you cannot help to arrange this marriage 
with Lord Beaurepaire,' answered the duchess, 
' you can, at least, promise to be neutral.' 

1 Which means, if I am asked as to Mrs 
Tremayne's antecedents, I need not know 
that she was once Cheap Jack's little Pearl' 

The duchess sprang up. 

' Oh, Mr Sivewright, is it possible that you 
know so much and yet do not know all. 
Why, I myself was not aware of this. I knew 
of course the story of Pearl, but she never told 
me that its hero had appeared on the scene.' 

' You see then, duchess, how very difficult is 
the task you would impose on yourself and me.' 



j& Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Difficult or easy, it must be accomplished 
or—' 

I Or — what is the alternative ? ' 

I I must bear the brunt of failure.' 

' Supposing that Mrs Tremayne climbs to 
the lofty position to which she aspires, how 
do you propose to assure yourself the benefits 
arising from success ? ' 

1 She has promised to return me a packet 
of letters which — ' 

The duchess stopped and passed her hand 
over her face as though to shield it from the 
scrutinising glances of her pastor. 

1 Oh, I cannot tell you ; and yet, without 
knowing the whole truth, how can I expect 
you to help and guide me.' 

Curiosity was perhaps the strongest feel- 
ing that influenced Mr Sivewright at the 
moment, though he replied with every ap- 
pearance of mere professional interest, — 

' My dear duchess, pray look on me as 
a mere doctor of souls. Tell me your 



Boudoir Confession. 79 

troubles as you would tell your bodily ail- 
ments to your physician.' 

1 The one is much easier than the other,' 
she answered, as she fell back among her 
cushions, looking very ghastly. 

' My acquaintance with Violet Tremayne 
is not a thing of yesterday. We have passed 
through many an ordeal together — before 
she married Mr Tremayne, before I ever 
saw the duke.' 

She spoke in such a low tone as to 
necessitate Mr Sivewright's drawing his chair 
yet nearer to her ; and even then he could 
scarcely hear what she said. She stopped 
for a second as though breath failed her, 
and then she went on speaking very rapidly, 
but still almost inaudibly, — 

1 We were girls together, thrown much into 
each other's society abroad, where my mother's 
health obliged us to stay. Violet was always 
what you see her now. A desperate throw to 
her was a mere pastime, whether at the gaming 



8o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

tables or at the game of life ; but to say that 
Violet impelled me is no extenuation of my fault. 

Again the duchess stopped ; this time Mr 
Sivewright took her hand and pressed it 
warmly. This speechless sympathy inspired 
her with fresh courage, and she went on. — 

' An officer in the Sardinian army— he — 
well, he flirted with us both ; but Violet was 
soon to marry Mr Tremayne. I was the vic- 
tim, that is, he wrote me letters, made assig- 
nations, which — well — I kept them, and — ' 

Mr Sivewright still held the duchess's hand, 
which she allowed to remain passively in his. 
Perhaps the contact inspired her .with con- 
fidence. He, however, had not derived 
much information from her somewhat dis- 
jointed account ; and feeling that she wanted 
some encouragement, with another gentle 
pressure he said softly, — 

' And this Sardinian it is who is your 
bete noire. Surely, my dear duchess, it were 
not difficult to remove the incubus ? ' 



Boudoir Confession. 81 

1 He was married,' she went on, speaking 
almost inarticulately ; ■ our meetings — our 
correspondence — were at last known to his 
wife; the scandal — my shame, shall I ever 
forget them ? ' 

' But it is long ago, and buried, let us 
hope, as all unhappy memories should be, in 
a silent past/ 

1 A silent past — Mr Sivewright, if you have 
found it possible to render the past silent, 
help me now to silence Violet Tremayne,' 
and the duchess, as she grew excited, raised 
her voice to its natural tone, and released 
her hand from the vicar's lingering touch. 

' She holds you in her power by — ' 

1 She has my letters, which she asked back 
from him at my request, and then kept to 
serve her own purposes.' 

1 Could Mrs Tremayne be otherwise than 
disloyal ? But, tell me, how can her retention 
of the letters injure you now ? ' 

' The duke, if he knew it would — oh, 

VOL. III. f 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



Mr Sivewright, why will you make me 
own all my sin ? He told me before our 
marriage that he would never forgive any 
frivolity of conduct in his wife either before 
or after marriage. I told him I had nothing 
with which to reproach myself ; and the lie 
has never forgotten to haunt me since the 
day it was uttered.' 

* Ah, duchess, falsehood is a viper that, 
when warmed in a bosom, invariably stings 
sooner or later/ 

' But, Mr Sivewright, now, surely now, I 
have had enough of suffering. You will 
help me to cure the pain now. Mrs Tre- 
mayne must be removed. I cannot bear this 
constant infliction any longer. Those letters, 
I must have them returned. Oh, God ! if 
you knew what I have suffered, surely — 
surely I have expiated my fault ? Let her 
marry Lord Beaurepaire, I implore, I en- 
treat — oh, if I could only get back my 
letters and be free ! ' 



Boudoir Confession. 83 

A flush had come over her face as she 
talked, giving just the ray of warmth and 
life in which it was normally wanting. Mr 
Sivewright, who had on more than one 
occasion acknowledged the power which the 
duchess's personal attractions had over him, 
was at this moment more thoroughly her 
slave than he had ever been before. That 
she should be cast from her high estate for 
a fault of which it was evident she had 
repented in sackcloth and ashes, he resolved 
should not occur as long as he could stretch 
forth his strong right hand to prevent it. 
If electing himself the duchess's champion 
had but entailed the crushing of Mrs Tre- 
mayne, he would have liked the office better ; 
as it was, however, he must use the weapons 
of diplomacy instead of those of warfare, and 
always having a regard for his own dignity 
and honesty, assure to the duchess, if pos- 
sible, the solidity of position she so craved. 

However much carried away by admira- 



84 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

tion, Mr Sivewright was by no means the 
sort of man to forget even for a moment 
the high standard of rectitude and honour 
to which he deemed it imperative that every 
man should attain who had any regard for 
his own self-respect, or the consideration of 
his fellows. Lying and deceit were in Mr 
Sivewright's eyes the gravest sins. How 
difficult then would it be for him to gain 
the duchess's cause by acting in concert with 
Violet Tremayne's views. 

1 My dear duchess/ and once again Mr 
Sivewright took her grace's hand and pressed 
it this time between both his own, ' the 
letters shall be returned to you. I promise 
it, whether Mrs Tremayne does or does 
not marry Lord Beaurepaire.' 

' But you will not oppose the marriage ? ' 
and the tone of the duchess's voice showed 
how really afraid of Violet she was. 

' I will be silent,' he answered with some 
dignity ; ' making or marring marriages is, 



Boudoir Confession. 85 

after all, scarcely in accordance with my 
office ; but there is nothing derogatory in 
the majesty of silence.' 

This was all Violet asked ; thus far then 
the duchess deemed her point was gained. 
Mrs Tremayne must herself fabricate the 
delicate webs by which Lord Beaurepaire 
was to be surrounded. 

' You are kind, most kind/ she said. 
1 Dear Mr Sivewright, to have you for an 
ally is indeed a comfort and support.' 

' You feel — you know you can trust me 
utterly.' 

So the bond of a compact was sealed 
between them, and Mr Sivewright left 
Montarlis Castle that day with a pleasant 
smile wreathing about his lips. As the 
sleek cob trotted along the road past 
Ravensholme Church, its master was. mut- 
tering softly to himself, — 

1 Est et fideli tuta silentio 
Merces.' 



CHAPTER VI. 



THE VICAR UNBENDS. 



J^RfjpO fight Mr Lently at every issue, 
if he should say anything in 
disparagement of Claire, . was 
Matthew's determination, as he turned in at 
the gate leading to Ravensholme Vicarage, 
and sauntered up the path which divided it 
from the house. The children had spied 
him from an upper window, and swooping 
down the stairs, received him at the door 
with deafening acclaim. So uproarious was 
their delight at seeing Matthew again, that 
Mr Lently came out of the study to inquire 
the cause of this more than usual outcry, and 
even his ascetic features could not forego a 



The Vicar unbends. 8j 

smile when he saw the heir of Vantage 
being nearly overpowered by the tempes- 
tuous welcomes of his offspring. At the 
same moment two heads looked out from 
the drawing-room, and Mrs Lently and Mrs 
Tremayne, who for the last half-hour had 
been closeted in gossiping conclave, now 
appeared on the scene. The vicar's face 
resumed its usual sternness when he saw 
them, the presence of his wife generally 
serving as an irritant, and her present 
companionship with her visitor from Mont- 
arlis Castle being especially distasteful to 
him. He shook hands very stiffly with 
Violet Tremayne, desired his wife rather 
sternly to send the children to the nursery, 
and then withdrew into his study, accom- 
panied by Matthew. 

For a second or two there was an awkward 
pause. Both men remembered that their last 
parting had been in anger, while the vicar 
was keenly alive to the fact of the vast change 



88 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

in Matthew's circumstances, a change which 
the young man himself in no wise thought 
of as he found himself once more with his 
old director. He only recollected that he 
had been obstinately determined, that he 
had come now to discuss the subject once 
again, and that he must be on his guard 
not to let his own vacillation become 
apparent to his priestly mentor. 

1 So, Matthew, I scarcely expected to see 
you in these parts just now. I heard you 
were studying philosophy so energetically 
that you could not be dissuaded from your 
reading.' 

Matthew coloured up at this attack, and 
said very rapidly, — 

' No, no, it is not true. I don't think I 
shall go back to Mr Wharton any more.' 

To discuss the merits and demerits of 
philosophy with Mr Lently was, he felt, 
utterly impossible. 

1 I presume that now you consider the 



The Vicar unbends. 89 

study of polemics unnecessary ? ' said Mr 
Lently with some emphasis on the now. ■ It 
is a merciful interposition of Providence on 
your behalf, Matthew, if your theological 
training were to be placed in Wharton's 
hands/ 

1 I shall not take orders/ said Matthew 
very shortly. 

' Of course not — of course not. Unless 
the Church is required to provide a living it 
is seldom appealed to/ 

' That is a hard verdict, Mr Lently. It 
would be scarcely possible to combine the 
duties of priest and squire ; and some day 
I shall be called .to fulfil those of the latter. 
I have no choice left me. I doubt too if I 
should have taken orders, even had my poor 
brother lived.' 

'Indeed! and what changed the views of 
the young and ardent disciple, from whom 
our party hoped so much ? ' 

' You yourself,' said Matthew, talking very 



90 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

hurriedly ; ' ever since our last conversation 
I have been fighting against an ever-increas- 
ing conviction that I was unfit for the priestly 
office. I could not forego the pleasures of a 
domestic life. I could not live as — as Mr 
Sivewright does, for example.' 

' Mr Sivewright ! ' and there was a sneer 
in Mr Lently's voice as he pronounced his 
reverend brothers name, into which he did 
not frequently allow himself to be trapped. 

He saw some surprise expressed on Mat- 
thew's face, and he instantly changed his tone. 

' Of course — of course you will marry, it is 
now only right that you should do so. 
Claire, out of place in the priest's celibate, 
retreat, will prove a charming Lady Bounti- 
ful at Vantage Park.' 

1 Claire ! ' and Matthew stopped. Natur- 
ally Mr Lently spoke of Claire. How could 
he know aught of that other love that had 
been disputing with her the possession of 
his heart of late. Should he tell him all his 



The Vicar unbends. 9 1 

troubles, make a full confession, as he had 
been wont to do, before a feeling of coldness 
had sprung up between them ? Nay, it was 
impossible. How could Lently know aught 
of the various gradations in passion which 
different women were capable of inspiring ? 
Claire's name, falling so readily from his 
lips, had somewhat startled Matthew, who, 
although he had come to Ravensholme pre- 
pared to defend his position as regarded her, 
did not exactly expect to find that position at 
once taken for granted as an established fact. 
l-J Whom, if not Claire, do you intend to be 
your wife?' asked Mr Lently. 'It is true 
I have heard reports of your devotion to 
another lady ; but I, who have known you 
from boyhood, have not done you the in- 
justice to believe them.' 

Matthew winced, and heartily wished him- 
self out of the vicar's presence. The view 
Mr Lently evidently took of the exigencies 
of his life differed essentially from what he 



9 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

had expected. To argue a point from all 
its bearings was an amusement in which 
Matthew especially delighted; but if he looked 
for a passage at arms he was doomed to dis- 
appointment on this occasion. Mr Lently 
had expressed himself so strongly against his 
marriage with Claire during their last inter- 
view, that Matthew quite expected him to 
take up the cudgels for Valentina now, since 
every one in a worldly sense must readily 
have admitted that she would be the prefer- 
able mistress of Vantage ; he had not reckoned 
for Lently not being a man of the world. 

'I know what you mean,' he. answered, 
speaking very rapidly. ' Yes, Lady Val- 
entina is a great friend of mine, has been 
very good to me ; but there has been as yet 
no word of marriage between us/ 

' As yet, Matthew — surely as long as 
Claire lives such a thing can never be in 
contemplation. Honour and justice alike 
forbid it.' 



The Vicar unbends. 93 

1 1 thought you wished it to be broken off 
— I mean my engagement to Claire,' said 
Matthew a little nervously. 

'No promise to any woman should be 
binding when a man is called to the priest- 
hood,' was the stern answer ; 'as a layman 
you are bound to Claire ; surely it cannot be 
possible that you are halting between two 
opinions.' 

' No,' answered Matthew, perhaps not 
quite truthfully. 4 I intend to marry Claire, 
but I fancy my mother wishes me to pro- 
pose to Lady Valentina. I shall be harassed 
by much opposition at home.' 

1 You must pray for strength to withstand 
it. Look upon this Lady Valentina as a 
temptress, a beautiful temptress, and cast her 
allurements from you.' 

Matthew could not forego a smile as. he 
watched the vicar's enthusiastic ardour, and 
thought of Valentina, the cold, proud Valen- 
tina, her anger and her dismay, had she 



94 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

heard herself thus alluded to. It was only 
meet that he should defend her, he thought, 
as he said promptly, — 

' There is no danger from her — she is 
more likely to refuse than to accept me. 
But Claire, Mr Lently, has she, do you 
think, been quite kind in going away so 
silently, but seldom even writing a line to 
me in all my troubles and difficulties ? ' 

' Is it so ?' asked Lently; 'then I honour 
the child for her delicacy of character and 
regard for holy things.' 

* I do not understand.' 

' She had, I hope, been taught .her duty 
under my poor ministry, and she would not 
stand between you and yours.' 

1 Duty ! ' exclaimed Matthew impetuously ; 
' there can be no true love in a woman who 
takes " duty only " for her motto.' 

1 Matthew, is this the result of all my 
patient teaching ? Have I spent hours in 
prayer for you ; offered up even sacrifices 



The Vicar itnbends. 95 



in your behalf, to hear such sentiments from 
your lips ? Oh, my poor young brother, 
I fear me you have fallen into evil ways. 
Pray God it may be granted to a pure, 
loving spirit like Claire's to regain you from 
the dreary waste.' 

Matthew got up a little irritated by what 
he deemed Mr Lently's impertinent and 
undue interference in his love affairs. £ He 
would marry whom he chose — by Jove he 
would,' he muttered sotto voce. It was the 
nearest approach to an oath that had ever 
passed Matthew's lips in his life, and fortu- 
nately his director did not hear it, though he 
saw the angry frown on his brow and the 
flash in his large bright eyes. He shook his 
head sadly, to Mr Lently it was as if a 
lamb had been lost from the fold he loved 
so well. He held out his hand however with 
a kindly gesture, and said soothingly, — 

' Do not let us part in anger this time 
also, my dear Matthew. If I have said any- 



96 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

thing to vex you, remember it is the deep 
interest I take in your welfare which makes 
me truthful. It is for you to decide on the 
arrangements of your future life ; but let me 
implore you to be true to yourself and to 
your faith ; believe, my son, that my prayers 
will ever follow you in the future as they 
have done in the past/ 

It was seldom that Mr Lently spoke so 
temperately. When under the influence of a 
strong excitement, as he was at this moment, 
he usually allowed himself to be carried away 
by his emotions, and thus frequently injured 
the cause he had so much at heart, pre- 
venting many who might otherwise have 
believed in him, from perceiving the real 
good there was in the man concealed be- 
neath an outward coating of what was apt 
to sound like cant. Matthew, knowing full 
well the avalanche of anathemas he was 
accustomed to hurl on those who differed 
from him in opinion or doctrine, appreciated 



The Vicar unbends. 97 

to the fullest his present mild rebuke ; and, 
seizing his proffered hand, he shook it warmly. 

' I will be true/ he said with much sup- 
pressed feeling, ' true to myself and — Claire.' 

So the voice that had been whispering to 
Matthew from under the eaves of Swanover, 
spoke yet more loudly at Ravenshoime. 

He left Mr Lently's study by the door lead- 
ing out of the house ; nor sought any farther 
communication that day with Mrs Lently 
and her children, much to the disappoint- 
ment of the latter, who were all waiting im- 
patiently till the private interview with their 
father should have ended ; but Matthew felt 
that he must be alone for a time. He must 
let the various conflicting emotions which 
were raging in his mind have their full sway, 
and perhaps when they had partially spent 
themselves, he would be able to guide 'his 
feelings into a definite channel with some 
capability of determining whether inclination 
and honour had any chance of walking side 

VOL. III. G 



c 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth* 

by side. He strayed into a little copse lying 
on the outskirts of the Vantage property 
which on previous occasions had not unfre- 
quently been chosen as a spot where he could 
ruminate without observation or interruption. 
It was strange that impetuosity and vacilla- 
tion should both hold a prominent place in 
Matthew's nature. The first ever made him 
act on the spur of the moment ; the second 
made him reflect and wonder whether, in so 
doing, he had acted wisely. The reflective 
spirit held the chief sway over him at this 
present time, and it pronounced for Claire. 
Still he could not bring himself to give up all 
thoughts of Valentina without a struggle, and 
after all there was no occasion to do anything 
rashly. 

' Surely it were well to be just a little 
guided by circumstances,' he muttered to 
himself, as he at last rose from the recum- 
bent position under a large tree into which 
he had thrown himself the better to think out 



The Vicar unbends. 99 

his subject ; ' for, after all, Claire has not 
treated me well,' and he began to saunter 
slowly towards the house, where Valentina 
had been long wondering over his absence, 
though she was far too proud to appear other- 
wise than perfectly composed and indifferent. 
She was standing at the window though, as 
he came leisurely across the lawn. 

He did not see her, but she noted full well 
the jaded careworn look about his expressive 
face which, to her watchful mind, told at 
once of fierce mental tribulation and inward 
strife. 

' What could she do to help him ? ' was 
her first thought. Strange that if the 
troubled state of his feelings had brought 
him home, he should have avoided rather 
than sought advice and consolation from her. 
But the luncheon bell had rung some minutes. 
Valentina could not, without a breach of good 
manners, do otherwise than bring her con- 
jectures and hesitations to a speedy conclu- 



i oo Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

sion, and go down into the dining-room, where 
she had no doubt of meeting Matthew. In 
this, however, she was doomed to disappoint- 
ment. Matthew had gone straight to his 
room on entering the house, leaving word 
that, as he had breakfasted so late, he wanted 
no luncheon ; and Lady Valentina was con- 
demned to dawdle through what seemed to 
her a very tedious repast, unenlivened by 
long prosaic statements from Mrs Des- 
borough anent a morning's work to which 
she had been devoting herself in the parish — 
for the two ladies were en tete-d-tete, Lord 
Beaurepaire had gone for a walk,- and the 
squire never appeared at luncheon. Then 
followed the usual afternoon drive, taking 
Valentina still farther away from all chance 
of meeting Matthew ; and never before had 
it occurred to her to think Mrs Desborough's 
conversation so heavy as she did that day. 
Back at last, however, at Vantage, Matthew 
was standing on the door-step to receive 



The Vicar unbends. 101 

them, looking so beaming and full of smiles 
as to bewilder Valentina and make her heart 
beat when she saw him. Could it be that 
Matthew had really made up his mind as to 
a definite course of action during the last few 
hours. Time alone would prove. 




CHAPTER VII. 



A SNOWDROP, 



S^^fRS DESBOROUGH said it was 




cold and disagreeable, the early 
spring day with its English ac- 
companiment of east wind did not suit her, 
and she passed on quickly into the house. It 
was not quite certain whether the drive in the 
fresh air had produced a shivering sensation, 
or whether she deemed it expedient to leave 
Matthew and Valentina together for a brief 
space, for most assuredly Mrs Desborough 
was as anxious to promote this marriage as 
she had been desirous to break off the en- 
gagement with Claire Bailey. The carriage 
drove slowly round to the stables, the footman 



A Snowdrop. 103 



disappeared through an inner door with the 
wraps, but the two young people still stood 
on the door-step, contemplating the sunset 
behind the high trees in the park. Those 
fiocculent masses of cloud, as they stretched, 
tinted with ruby and amber, across the 
horizon, had many a time before in one or 
another of their varied forms suggested a 
topic when conversation halted ; and their 
beauty was as good as any other subject now 
to loosen the tongues of this couple, who for 
some reason had, from being fast friends with 
endless objects of mutual interest to discuss, 
become on a sudden silent and shy. 

' If we go through the wood up the little 
hill yonder, we shall be able to look down on 
the sun. Will you come, or are you afraid 
of the damp ? ' Matthew said, after they 
had contemplated for a few minutes the 
roseate clouds receding from the tree tops. 

' Oh no, I am not delicate, and I should 
like a walk very much.' 



104 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

So they started together, Mrs Desborough, 
who saw them from the library window, smil- 
ing complacently to herself as they passed 
out of sight. They walked rapidly away to 
the top of the hill to which Matthew had 
alluded, and no word of individual interest 
had been spoken. For aught their conver- 
sation conveyed, they might have been the 
merest chance acquaintances, and yet both 
their hearts were full of thought for each 
other. Valentina was the first to break the 
spell which seemed to be hanging over them. 

' It has been a sad coming home for you, 
I fear, Mr Desborough ? I did not know 
it would have affected you so much, or I 
should not have written to induce it — forgive 
me,' she said, when the sun having almost 
disappeared, she became emboldened in the 
deepening shadows. 

1 Sad, yes, it has been sad — worse perhaps 
than sad ; but how do you know ? ' 

' How do I know ? Have I seen so 



A Snowdrop. 105 



much of you of late, and not learned to 
read your mental barometer.' 

1 Yet I am not easy to understand or 
read ; at least so my friends tell me.' 

1 The motives which occasion rapid fluc- 
tuations are, I agree at times, quite unsolv- 
able ; but still I always know when storms 
are about, and am very pleased when I 
can note that your glass stands at set 
fair.' 

1 Is it at set fair now ? ' 

'No, Mr Desborough, it is not. Change- 
able, I should think, would be the correct 
definition of your present phase.' 

He looked at her with some curiosity, but 
he did not speak for a few seconds, then he 
said abruptly, — 

1 I went to see Lently this morning.' 

1 Indeed ! Did anything take place during 
the interview to annoy or excite you ? ' 

1 He urges me to marry — says that now 
I am an eldest son I ought to take a re- 



1 06 Sackcloth and Brcadcloth, 

sponsibility with which as a priest I had no 
right to encumber myself.' 

The hot blood rushed into Lady Valentina's 
face ; it was her turn to be silent. Once 
having made up his mind to broach this 
subject with Lady Valentina, it was so like 
Matthew to rush into it headlong. Having 
done so, he stopped short, waiting perhaps 
for her to help him ; but, if so, he waited 
in vain, and was obliged to ask pointedly, — 

* Have you no opinion to offer ? ' 

' I should not dream of giving one on such 
a matter,' she said decidedly. 

' And why not ? I thought you had 
undertaken the care of me in all things/ 

1 Marriage is a serious affair ; it is one 
with which other people should not meddle. 
I have no right — no wish/ 

Lady Valentina spoke hurriedly — a little 
incoherently. 

' Serious, yes, but not more serious than 
religion, and you have often given me 



4 Snowdrop. 107 



your views about that,' and there was just 
a twinkle of amusement in Matthew's large 
eyes as he looked at her. 

She detected it at once, and drew herself 
up with a degree of stiffness that would 
have chilled the most ardent swain. 

' Let us talk of something else. Excuse 
my indifference ; but I never can interest 
myself in a marriage.' 

' How odd ! I thought all women did ; but 
then you are not like other women, Lady 
Valentina. I own I always place you on 
a pinnacle far, far above them.' 

She gave an almost inarticulate, 'Ah!' 
Down at its base, lying among the dust, 
were. a more enviable position than to be 
placed on a height and worshipped, not 
loved. Matthew, however, formed no guess 
as to what was passing in her mind. He 
merely conjectured that she accepted the 
compliment somewhat coldly ; that she was, 
in fact, of a frigid unimpressionable nature. 



1 08 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

How often in life is pride mistaken for 
coldness ? 

As far as Lady Valentina was concerned, 
there was no harm done, he concluded ; in 
fact had he asked her to marry him, he 
would probably have met with a flat refusal, 
and Matthew felt not a little piqued at the 
surmise. Did she deem him insignificant 
and incapable of inspiring love, he wondered, 
or was it that she was indifferent to all 
masculine homage ? 

And then the thought came into his mind 
that to win Lady Valentina's affections would 
indeed be a triumph ; but the idea passed 
almost as soon as it came, for to win them 
only to cast them away lightly, were an 
ignoble act ; and had he not made up his 
mind that his honour was pledged to Claire 
Bailey — and yet ? 

' I am disappointed — very much disap- 
pointed — that you will not interest yourself 
in my future,' he said a little pointedly. 



A Snowdrop. 109 



1 I don't know what you mean. Have 
I not always done so ? Tell me, what are 
your views about pursuing your studies at 
Mr Wharton's ? ' 

' I have left there — for good.' 

1 Indeed ! You are most startling in your 
assertions to-day, Mr Desborough. One 
would think — ' 

1 That I had never been vacillating and 
undecided, that is just it. I have turned 
over a new leaf. In future I intend to 
make up my mind at once.' 

' And abide by it ? ' she asked, with just 
the very least inclination to a smile. 

1 And abide by it. You shall not say my 
barometer is set at " Changeable " any more 
— in fact, Lady Valentina, you will not know 
me.' 

1 No, I shall not know you, so it seems/ 
she echoed dreamily. 

He looked at her in surprise, it was not 
usual .for her to be so absent and indifferent. 



1 1 o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

but he could assign no reason for it, and 
coming to the conclusion that the conversa- 
tion flagged rather unpleasantly, he sug- 
gested that as it was growing dusk they 
had perhaps better begin to wend their 
steps homewards ; so they turned towards 
the house, and she rushed into another topic 
with an irrelevancy which had hitherto been 
Matthew's especial province, and asked, — 

' Have you ever given your attention to 
any particular school in painting ? Are you 
inclined to admire the arrangements, sym- 
phonies, and harmonies in colour, about 
which one hears so much ? ' 

' What a sudden digression,' Matthew said, 
by way of answer. 

' Yes. I daresay it seems so. I for- 
got we had not spoken of it before. It 
is a bad habit of mine to allude to what 
is in my thoughts, and I have been think- 
ing a good deal about art since I had a 
discussion about it with Mr Sivewright.' 



A Snowdrop. 1 1 1 



' Oh ! Sivewright. He knows every- 
thing.' 

' Yes, he seems to be very well read 
and scholarly. He is a great favourite at 
Vantage. Do you like him, Mr Des- 
borough ? ' 

1 Yes — and no. I think he is a scrupul- 
ously conscientious man ; but I object to 
the tenets he holds. And you ? ' 

' Oh ! I am rather perplexed. I never 
heard religion so much discussed in my life 
as I have done during the last few weeks. 
So many new views have been thrown on 
it, which never occurred to me, pursuing as 
I did the " even tenor of my ways." 

1 I hope the opening of a new vista has 
served to increase your faith,' said Matthew 
zealously. ' Faith — faith — belief is all we 
need.' 

' Or truth,' suggested Lady Valentina. 
'It is useless to take a thing on faith, 
unless you believe it to be the truth.' 



1 1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' You have indeed been having some 
conversations with Sivewright lately,' said 
Matthew with a sigh. 

1 It wanted no Mr Sivewright to tell me 
that I must find out for myself before I can 
agree to believe.' 

' Have you forgotten St Thomas ? Be- 
ware, lest the lesson bestowed on your 
doubting heart be a far more severe one 
than his was.' 

' I did not say my heart doubted,' she 
almost cried, for she felt anguish-torn, not- 
withstanding her coldness of manner and 
regality of mien. ' But when one is beset 
on every side by conflicting opinions ; when 
those you esteem the most do not retain 
the same views for two consecutive days, 
what is there to believe in ? Certainly 
neither man's faith nor human honour.' 

Never during their entire acquaintance had 
Matthew seen Lady Valentina thus excited, 
and he was thoroughly startled and astonished 



A Snowdrop. 1 1 3 



1 1 do not understand,' he said. ' What 
has happened since you have been at Van- 
tage to try you thus ? ' 

But Lady Valentina's ebullition of feeling 
had been but momentary ; before he had 
finished speaking she had already recovered, 
and was again her usually placid self. 

1 Oh, it is nothing,' she said, ' only I am 
rather tired of polemical discussions, and 
not feeling very well to-day, the mention 
of them makes me irritable.' 

1 Not well ! Oh, I am so sorry, and I 
have dragged you out to walk with me in 
the damp ! How selfish I am ! Tell me 
what I can do ? ' 

1 Nothing — it is merely the east wind. 
I am always strong,' and there was an 
amount of self-reliance in the latter part 
of her sentence which had the effect of 
chilling Matthew, as perhaps she had in- 
tended that it should do, not being par- 
ticularly pleased with his conduct since his 

VOL. III. II 



H4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

arrival at home. He walked beside her 
in silence for a few minutes. What was it 
that had set up a barrier between him and 
Lady Valentina ? he wondered. At any cost 
it must be broken down, and he was just 
about to ask her if he individually had done 
anything to annoy or vex her, when the 
third person, who so unfailingly appears at 
the most inconvenient moments of real life, 
stepped in, in the person of Mrs Tremayne, 
and changed the whole current of their 
talk. Matthew felt a little provoked at 
meeting her, but his annoyance was as 
nothing to that which Violet experienced 
when she almost stumbled against them 
in the semi-darkness. She never missed 
her point, however, whatever the emer- 
gency. 

1 Oh, I am late,' she said ; ' is it not horrible 
to be out alone at this hour ? But I did not 
expect to meet you two.' 

Lady Valentina coloured up with anger. 



A Snowdrop. 1 1 5 



The term ■ you two ' jarred ; she regarded 
it as an impertinence. 

1 1 presume you have been detained ? ' she 
said very stiffly. 

' And it is three miles to Montarlis,' put 
in Matthew. 

1 Don't remind me of it, Mr Desborough, 
please, I am such a silly thing ; I can never 
think of time when I am amused, and Mrs 
Giles is so very amusing/ 

' Mrs Giles ! ' 

' Yes, would you believe it ? I have been 
all day at Ravensholme ; ever since I met 
you this morning, part of the time at the 
vicarage, the rest with Mrs Giles.' 

' But this is not the way from Ravensholme 
to Montarlis!' 

' Is it not ? Well, no, not the straight way 
exactly ; but the sunset was so lovely I 
made a little detour, and then the darkness 
came on so fast. Oh dear ! ' 

If Matthew and Lady Valentina had in- 



1 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

spected the adjoining copse with observant 
eyes, they would have noted that Violet 
was not so utterly alone as she would have 
them believe. Cheap Jack was tracking 
her steps like a shadow, and did not intend 
to lose sight of her till she was safe inside 
the gate leading into the stable-yard at 
Montarlis. 

1 You had better come back with us to 
the house ; my mother will I am sure be 
delighted to see you, and I can drive you 
home later in the pony carriage.' 

Lady Valentina looked dignified, and 
preserved a rigid silence ; but then of 
course it was not her place to invite. 
There was a crackling as of sticks in the 
wood, which made them all look round ; 
but no one was visible, only Violet said 
hurriedly, — 

1 Oh, no thank you. I would not for 
worlds. The duchess would think I was 
lost, and what would the duke say ? In 



A Snowdrop. 1 1 7 



some houses it is imperative that one shall 
appear prettily dressed for dinner.' 

Mrs Tremayne invariably held up the 
duke as the Cerberus who mounted guard 
over her actions ; the truth being that he 
troubled himself very little about her, pro- 
viding she kept her erratic goings and com- 
ings within a certain boundary of decorum ; 
but then it looked so well to have a ducal 
guardian. 

1 Pray do not let us keep you,' said Lady 
Valentina, holding out her hand, and by the 
frigidity of her manner, at once showing that 
she at all events had no desire for Violet's 
company at Vantage. In fact so marked 
was it, that Violet, who loved contradiction, 
was instantly seized with a desire to accept 
Matthew's invitation, only at that moment the 
crackling once more made itself heard in the 
bushes ; so, with a short ' Good-bye ' she sped 
swiftly on, as though she had but one object 
in life — to reach Montarlis before the last 



1 1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

faint glimmer of light should have left the 
sky. 

' Jolly little woman. I often wish I had 
her spirits and her independence,' observed 
Matthew as soon as she was gone. 

1 You admire her ? You are cosmopolitan 
in your tastes, Mr Desborough.' 

1 Yes, I suppose I do admire her in a way. 
There is no objection, is there ? One does 
not want all the flowers in one's garden to 
be of the same hue.' 

4 Of course not ; but I did not know till 
now that you had a garden,' and the fashion- 
able sunflower drew herself up as though 
she scouted the impertinent glariness of the 
unblushing peony. 

5 Has not every man a garden ? ' asked 
Matthew with a laugh ; ' some large, some 
small. You did not imagine that a snow- 
drop was the only flower on which I had 
ever gazed or ever had an affection for, 
prize its merits though I may.' 



A Snowdrop. 1 1 9 



1 A snowdrop ; what could Matthew mean 
by a snowdrop ? ' asked Lady Valentina off 
herself. The appellation was scarcely one 
he would bestow on her. But she did not 
ask him, only said as lightly as she could, — 

' Oh, all you men are alike, I am afraid, 
and equally severe on us poor women if 
we venture to admire half-a-dozen different 
flowers.' 

They were close to the house by this 
time, and there was no time for farther 
conversation. 

On reaching it Lady Valentina went straight 
up to her room. She murmured ' A snow- 
drop ' more than once as she smoothed her 
hair, and made ready to join Mrs Desborough 
in the library, but each time that the pure 
white flower seemed to lift its head from its 
modest hiding-place, she felt more and more 
dissatisfied with her afternoon's walk and 
Matthew's coming home. 

If Lady Valentina's mind in her solitary 



120 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

moments was filled with conflicting emotions, 
Lord Beaurepaire, smoking an ante-prandial 
cigar in the shrubbery near the house, was 
not less the victim of many misgivings. Re- 
turning from the long walk on which he had 
started in the earlier part of the day, he 
too had seen Violet Tremayne, himself un- 
seen, and the sight had scarcely been as 
pleasing as it usually was. 

She was sitting on the top of a high gate, 
her feet on the second bar, her elbows on 
her knees, her face resting on her hands, 
looking very fixedly at a man in a striped 
blouse, with whom she was talking earnestly. 
As the last rays of the setting sun fell on 
the scene, it was a pretty one, at least so 
an indifferent person would have thought. 
Violet, with her red skirt, velvet jacket, and 
black wide-a-wake pushed back off her fore- 
head, looked decidedly picturesque ; while 
Jack Varley, with his striped blouse and 
green velvet cap, seemed a fitting mat 



A Snowdrop, t 2 r 



But Lord Beaurepaire shuddered ; he failed 
to note artistic effects, at all events in this 
instance. All the sensitiveness and refine- 
ment, all the ideas of decorum that there 
were in this thorough gentleman of the old 
school, recoiled before the sight of Mrs 
Tremayne, whom he had condescended to 
admire, talking to a low vagabond, whose 
business it was to travel about the country 
with a pedlars cart. 

An ocular demonstration accomplished at 
a glance what volumes of disparaging words 
from Lady Valentina's lips would have failed 
to effect. 




CHAPTER VIII, 



HONOUR OR DISHONOUR. 




R SIVEWRIGHT, on reaching 
Fernwood Vicarage after his inter- 
view with the duchess, gave his 
cob over to the youth who filled the situa- 
tion of factotum, and then with his hat well- 
set on his brows, his hands crossed behind 
his back, he went for a saunter across the 
glebe into the little wood beyond. For the 
first time in his life the Rev. Lawrence 
had been asked to take a part in a real 
living intrigue, and he scarcely accepted the 
invitation con amove. To stand at a little 
distance and watch a play fed his cynical 
tastes, and amused him vastly ; but active 



Honour or Dishonour. 123 

co-operation was rather to be dreaded, unless 
he felt certain he could enact his role with 
dignity and success. Nothing Mr Sive- 
wright feared so much in social affairs as 
failure. More than once he repeated the 
old Horatian line, telling of the reward of 
faithful silence ; but faithful silence would 
scarcely bring the duchess back her letters, 
and had he not promised on his honour that 
she should have them ? Let Mrs Tremayne 
marry Lord Beaurepaire ! What was it to 
him ? But even then he must beard the 
lioness in her den ; id est, the widow in her 
boudoir, and demand the letters. Let Mrs 
Tremayne marry Lord Beaurepaire ! — a frown 
contracted the vicar's brow. Perhaps he 
suddenly thought of Valentina ; but he did 
not encourage her presence in his mind. 

' They, Lady Valentina and her father, 
would doubtless return to London very soon, 
and, after all, why shouldn't Mrs Tremayne 
marry the old lord ? ' he asked again of 



1 24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

himself rather tartly. At all events he 
elected not to interfere, but to wait and 
watch till the moment came when the 
duchess's letters must be demanded. 

1 Tout vient a celui qui salt attendrel he 
muttered as, having made the circuit of the 
wood, he strolled back to the vicarage to 
see what Mrs Green would give him for 
luncheon. Here he found a note from 
Vantage. Matthew had returned home that 
very morning, and Mrs Desborough said 
would he come to dinner and meet him. 
So here was a fresh entanglement, and 
the vicar's frown came back as he con- 
sidered it. 

1 Left Wharton's and returned so suddenly. 
Wherefore ? ' and he twisted Mrs Des- 
borough's note round and round ; but she, 
generally so diffuse in her statements, gave 
no reason for this unexpected arrival. He 
must wait till the evening to learn reasons ; 
and — somewhat unusual phase in his character 



Honour or Dishonour, 125 

— the vicar felt irritably impatient at the delay. 
It was scarcely becoming a true philosopher 
to give way to peevishness and annoyance 
over so small a cause, he, however, de- 
cided, with a smile at his own want of 
temper ; so he made a careful luncheon, 
with a due regard to the dinner at Vantage 
that was to follow, and then, having smoked 
a fragrant Havanna, he betook himself to his 
books, and in their charmed society was 
soon lost to all consideration of how the 
machinery of human life which was work- 
ing at full steam all around him, did or did 
not affect him individually. At last the 
waning daylight reminded him that it was 
time to dress and start, if he meant to reach 
Vantage by dinner time ; and thus about an 
hour after Matthew and Lady Valentina had 
parted on the threshold of the great hall 
door, Mr Sivewright came round the base 
of the little hill, through the copse, past the 
very spot where they had met Violet Tre- 



126 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

mayne. As he emerged from it, and stood 
on the edge of the large field which lay 
between him and the house, the moon sud- 
denly appeared from behind a cloud, and in 
its light the vicar saw distinctly the shadow 
of a man leaning against a tree at some 
little distance. Mr Sivewright was no coward, 
and was, moreover, too accustomed to walk 
about at night to be prone to imagination 
on the subject of ghosts or robbers ; yet he 
started when his eye fell on this moon- 
illumined figure. 

1 Robin or Job, which of you is it there ?' 
he called in his most authoritative voice, 
supposing it might be one of the stable 
helpers at Vantage. 

'Neither, your reverence,' and the figure 
moved towards the vicar. 

' Cheap Jack ! Why, what on earth are 
you doing prowling about the- squire's fields 
after dark ? Do you know you might be 
had up for trespass ? ' 



Honour or Dishonom 



1 Trespass, your reverence. I ain't tres- 
passing no more than you. ' 

And there was a sullenness about Varley's 
answer which rather surprised Mr Sive- 
wright, to whom the man had always been 
most deferential, and made him wonder if 
Varley had been drinking. 

• Come, come, Varley, don't talk like that, * 
it is unbecoming.' 

' Oh ! I'm sick of manners and swells and 
humbug,' he said doggedly. ' 'Tain't no 
mortal use to pretend to be what you 
ain't, that's my opinion.' 

' Just so, Varley, quite right. Sailing, 
under false colours is most reprehensible. 
But to whom are you alluding ; not to 
yourself, I hope ? ' 

1 Me — no, I'm straightforrard enough. It 
is her that I am speaking of.' 

'Her?' and there was a decidedly as- 
tonished inflexion in Mr Sivewright's 
voice. 



128 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 Yes, she ain't true to no one, least of all 
to herself.' 

'But I do not know who you mean by 
her! 

' Why, Pearl. Mrs Tremayne that is ? ' 

' Oh, then you acknowledge the identity ; 
and I suppose you cannot get the lady to 
agree to it ? ' 

1 'Tain't that, your reverence, she knows 
she's Pearl, and she's owned it ; but she 
won't tackle to, and be " hail fellow well 
met," with her old pal. She is all for lords 
and ladies, and folks that wasn't a bit in 
her world when she was a child.' 

' My good friend, Varley, if you were 
standing on the top rung of a ladder, do 
you think you would be fool enough to 
throw yourself off at the risk of breaking 
your neck ? ' 

' Yes, if I thought I could save a fellow- 
being from pain, who was standing gasping 
at the bottom.' 



Honour or Dishonour. 1 29 



1 Then you are one in a thousand, and I 
give you honour ; but you must not expect 
to find sentiments like these in every breast.' 

' Perhaps not, leastwise, they are not in her's.' 

The stable clock at Vantage struck half- 
past seven. 

' I shall be late for dinner. I must go. 
I am sorry, as I should like to have a talk 
with you. Come to the vicarage to-morrow 
early, about nine o'clock, and let us discuss 
the subject freely.' 

Varley agreed, and the vicar passed on. 

Here was another troublesome and ill- 
fitting link to be added to the chain of 
circumstances which was encircling the little 
intimate society in which he daily dwelt, 
thought the Rev. Lawrence, as he rapidly 
crossed the park and rang the door bell. 
He had not shaken hands warmly with the 
lady of the house, somewhat frigidly with 
Lady Valentina, said a few kindly words to 
the squire, and patted Matthew familiarly 

VOL. III. 1 



130 Sackcloth and -Broadcloth. 

on the shoulder, before he became aware 
that in this household, as at Montarlis, the 
component parts did not fit. He had known 
Matthew intimately since his babyhood, it 
were strange if he had not detected in him 
symptoms of restlessness, which were only 
too apparent. The fact was that though he 
had thoroughly made up his mind in the 
earlier part of the day that no one should 
separate him from Claire, yet the walk with 
Valentina had served once more to unsettle 
Matthew's feelings ; her coolness and her 
dignity in fact serving to render him more des- 
perately in love with her for the time, than he 
had ever previously imagined himself to be. 
When dishonour talks very big about 
honour, and urges the latter, not only as 
its justification, but as its compelling agent, 
we are perhaps in more danger than at any 
other time of forming unto ourselves a false 
conscience. If ever open confession be good 
for the soul, it is assuredly at such a juncture. 



Honour or Dishonour, 



i/U 



Matthew was quite man enough to see his 
peril. He had gone to Lently, but what- 
ever liorht his interview with that zealous 

o 

divine had cast upon his soul had become 
blurred and insufficient, now that his feel- 
ings were intensified a hundredfold by his 
peripatetic conference with Valentina. It is 
doubtful whether any possible turn of events 
could have formed his passion for her to 
so white a heat as had that quiet after- 
noon ramble, during which apparently little 
or nothing had happened. Yet of such 
stuff are we. Sensational occurrences, perils 
braved together, furious jealousy, all these, 
while they serve to intensify love, not un- 
frequently bring with them an amount of 
excitement which helps us to bear whatever 
they inflict. Had his idol responded differ- 
ently to his inuendoes — to his probings and 
soundings, shall we say ? Had she, as was 
most improbable certainly, overcome by her 
disappointment at finding herself so far from 



132 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the goal she fondly hoped she had all 
but reached, as well as by her real love 
for this man, the first she had ever cared 
about at all — had she broken through her 
native pride, and, only half-invited, confessed 
her passion and her unhappiness, she must 
infallibly have lost ground with Matthew, 
however sweet and welcome to his ears 
such an avowal might have been at the 
moment. He would have caught her to 
his heart of course, and in the first rush 
of his boisterous feelings he would have 
doubtless told her she was the breath of 
his life, the one earthly hope of his soul, 
and much more in like strain ; but a moment 
later all the dreary falseness of his position 
would have reared up like an avenging 
demon against him. * Now that this woman 
was in his arms, what was he to do with 
her ? ' would have been the inevitable ques- 
tion. In the first place, in the abstract, a 
woman in such a position is almost invari- 



Honour or Dishonour. 133 

ably as depreciated, ipso facto, as the trout 
that is landed, or the fox after a kill, 
suspense ever giving a keener relish than 
success to the true sportsman. 

Most unreasonably Matthew jumped to the 
conclusion that the simple self-respect, the 
ordinary dignity which Valentina had shown 
during their colloquy were proof that she 
either regarded him with indifference, or that 
he had at least greatly overrated whatever 
little feeling she might entertain in his favour- 
A very few minutes, even the time while he 
dressed for dinner, sufficed to bring the two 
leading heads of his cogitations into definite 
shape. First, he told himself that he wor- 
shipped Valentina as woman had never been 
worshipped before. Next, in order to be 
quite unshackled, he would put himself at 
once in his friend Sivewright's hands as 
to honour and duty, with regard to his 
right to marry her. This, as appeared to 
him now, was a minor point, and as such 



134 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

though why we hardly know, sure to be 
triumphantly decided in his favour. 

In this frame of mind he joined the circle 
assembled for dinner, of whom Mr Sive- 
wright was one, and as any definite plan of 
action is a relief after perplexity, Matthew 
got through the first part of the evening 
comfortably and creditably enough, nor do 
the sayings and doings of the party call for 
any special notice or record. At eleven 
o'clock the Vicar of Fernwood took his 
courteous leave, and Matthew of course 
volunteered to walk home with him. Mr 
Sivewright had not proceeded a hundred 
yards before he perceived that his young 
friend took in none of the sense, if he heard 
the words of his remarks, and as it was 
not a case of any ceremony between them, 
he said cheerily, — 

' Come, Matthew, you have something to 
say to me, out with it, and lose no time 
to the form.' 



Honour or Dishonour. 135 

1 You are quite right, I have something 
very particular to say, but I am not sure 
you are right as to the unimportance of the 
form. A thing depends so much upon the 
way you put it.' 

' It may do so to a crowd, or still more to 
a jury, but so long as you state the whole 
case — I flatter myself — I shall come to much 
the same conclusion, which ever end of the 
story you begin at.' 

1 Well, here goes then, but I tell you that 
the issue is life or death to me, and that, be 
your dictum what it may, I shall abide by it.' 

Perhaps Matthew took this very decided 
tone from an unacknowledged feeling that it 
was enough for Mr Lently to have come 
to one conclusion for a man so exactly the 
contrary of him, as was his present padre, to 
arrive at an opposite one. He went on, — 

' The case is simply this. If a man finds 
himself in love with one woman, and has an 
old, but a still nominally binding engagement 



1 36 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to another, ought he to — which is the more 
manly and honourable — in short — but why 
should I deal in abstract statements, the case, 
as you have already guessed, is mine, my 
very own.' 

1 Naturally,' said the vicar very quietly. 

* Well, you know what a mere boy I was 
in feeling and experience, when I engaged 
myself to Claire Bailey. Not but what I 
think the world of her now as a sister, love 
her dearly as a sister, that is all. How was 
I to know,' he went on impetuously, ' the 
vast, the unspeakable difference between the 
mild interest, the tranquil affection with which 
my untried heart regarded her, and the soul- 
absorbing, the raging love of which I only 
now discover that I am capable ? ' 

There, as ever, it will be noted that can- 
dour was Matthew's strong point. He seemed 
made for the confessional. As much cannot 
be said for his hearer. Truly a father con- 
fessor should be not only unmarried but 



H 07i02ir or Dishonour. 1 3 7 

unmanageable — dead to the things of this 
world. The willing penitent, in this instance, 
little suspected into how unwilling an ear he 
was pouring forth his tale. Yet it was not 
in Sivewright to flinch. He felt sorely vexed 
at this fresh weight in the scale against his 
chance of winning the fair lady of Beaure- 
paire ; but he had too well founded a reliance 
upon his honesty to feel any embarrassment 
on the score of his own interest swaying in 
either direction the advice he should deem it 
his duty to give. We say in either direction, 
because instances are not rare among the 
devout, and our friend Lently was probably 
one of these, who would be violently pre- 
judiced in favour of any decision which, 
humanly speaking, was very distasteful to 
them. Not so with Mr Sivewright. There 
is such a thing as arriving at a fairly correct 
idea of one's own strong and weak points, 
spite of all that may be urged on the score 
of self-deception, and the Vicar of Fernwood 



138 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

was perfectly aware that he was incorruptibly 
honest, whatever weaknesses, and they were 
not few or slight, he might dally with in other 
directions. But to return. 

After taking a few moments to digest the 
young man's ardent speech, he said, — 

' Am I to understand that you deem i L 
your duty, subject to my opinion, to write to 
Miss Bailey, and say that since you proposed 
to, and were accepted by her, you have met 
another woman who has inspired you with a 
far stronger feeling, and that therefore Miss 
Bailey must consider the engagement at an 
end.' 

' That is not the way in which — ' 

1 Never mind the manner, that is mere 
detail. That is in substance the matter of 
what you would say. After all, the import- 
ant point for your first love,' here Matthew 
winced, ' is whether you love and mean to 
marry her, or whether you do not. I can quite 
understand that the way you put it appears 



Honour or Disho7iour. 1 39 

to you of great consequence, but it is a 
supremely small matter to her.' 

There is nothing so repulsive to one about 
to commit an act of cruelty, as to have the 
masquerading fleece of the lamb in which he 
has mentally enveloped his wolf to his own 
conscience, unceremoniously torn aside. It 
was with growing - irritation of tone that 
Matthew replied, — 

' Tell me, is not this irrefutable logic ? 
The question is one of injury to Claire/ 
Of two evils, I am bound to choose the 
lesser. Shall I go to her, acting a part I no 
longer feel ? Lie to her, by saying my 
affection is unchanged, and perjure myself 
at the altar of God by swearing I love 
her, while another woman fills all my heart ? 
Doom her, in short, to a life of misery ? For 
what man, not naturally a hypocrite, could 
make a wife happy for long in such a fools 
paradise ? Or shall I not rather say honestly 
and like a man, if it were necessary for 



1 40 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

your happiness to lay my head on the block, 
I give you my honour I would do so with- 
out hesitation ; but as to our engagement, I 
cannot honourably fulfil it. When I asked 
you to be mine I was a mere boy, knowing 
nothing of life or of my own heart. I have 
awakened as from a pleasant trance. As 
much for your sake as for mine, I tell you 
my affection for you — which nothing shall 
ever diminish — has changed its nature. I 
love you as a brother, but that is all ! Which 
of these courses, my dear friend, is most in 
accordance with an enlightened rectitude, 
with manliness, honour, and common sense?' 

The vicar took his arm ere he replied, 
and pressed it affectionately. 

' I give you my word that I believe you 
speak in all sincerity — that you have your- 
self no serious doubt on the matter. I wish, 
with all my heart, that I or any competent 
judge could agree with you.' 

' And you do not ? ' 



Honour or Dishonour. 1 4 1 

1 Alas ! it is not a matter of opinion ; but 
one of those patent cases in which all ex- 
perienced men of honour must agree. All 
that you have just called logic, is nothing 
but specious, clever, plausible sophistry, 
believe me. Oh, you may rely that did 
I see but a loophole for doubt, I would 
advise a consultation, like a good physician 
in a case of any uncertainty.' 

Matthew was about to let his temper 
burst forth, but cui bono came timely to 
his aid ; and, with an effort, he said very 
calmly, — 

1 Explain.' 

' Nothing easier. It is an immutable law 
that no outward rule of honour can be broken 
on the plea of inward motives. To infringe 
this would be to subvert all honour. Once 
allow you to act as you propose, and there 
is an end to all truth and faith in the most 
solemn engagement.' 

The evident truth of this remark chilled 



142 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

poor overheated Matthew to the bones. 
His friend went on, — 

' Every contemptible male jilt, every trifler 
with the fresh and sacred affections of the 
purest girl, might take shelter under your 
pleas and go unscathed.' 

' I — I — own that had not struck me,' 
groaned the young man. 

' You talk of hypocrisy ; but have you 
never heard that there are cases where it 
is not merely allowable, but where we have 
no choice ; cases where, if we are not hypo- 
crites, we are heartless villains ? ' 

* You mean ? ' 

' Take a parent who has an overweening 
partiality for one child, almost an antipathy 
for the other ; is he not bound nobly to 
play the hypocrite. A month, a year after 
marriage, one of a late happy pair, knowing 
not why or wherefore, is seized by an un- 
reasonable but very real loathing for the 
other. Oh, we meet such instances oftener 



Honotir or Dishonour. 143 

than you dream of. Would a candid sin- 
cerity be a very noble quality under such 
conditions as these ? Take again the fre- 
quent cases where we must act a part in 
order to keep a secret we are pledged not 
to betray. No, the one, the only possible 
guide, must be to take somewhat the same 
view of a betrothal as of marriage itself, 
both are too often entered upon without due 
deliberation ; but as that is no excuse for 
divorce, after the ceremony of marriage, so 
neither does it offer a valid plea for escape 
before.' 

1 Do you mean to tell me that there is 
no exception ? ' 

1 None, none to an engagement honour- 
ably formed. None where, as I said before, 
inward causes can alone be urged in favour 
of escape. If some mature man-hunter, 
widow or spinster, a garrison hack, say, as 
they are called, were to take advantage of 
being cooped up in a country house with 



144 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

some splendid boy-match, and entrap him 
into an engagement, who could blame the, 
friends of the poor youth for advising him 
to plead their authority to free himself from 
her meshes ? ' 

' Yes, as you say, that is not an excep- 
tion, because not really a case in point. I 
will tell Claire Bailey all, and throw myself 
upon her mercy.' 

A pause — a long pause. 

' Well, Sivewright, why don't you speak ? ' 

' I have knocked down so much, that I 
detest to go on. It ought to be needless 
too. I was waiting for you to perform the 
rest of the operation of unblinding.' 

' Oh, a truce to imagery ; why can I not 
give Claire her choice ? Old proverbs are 
safe things volenti non fit injuria' 

i Because, my friend, it is no choice at all. 
Must I point out to you that if it is un- 
warrantable to break off the marriage, any 
step, no matter what, that must inevitably 



Honour or Dishonour, 145 

have the same result, must be equally un- 
worthy.' 

' But surely she might — ' 

1 No, she might not. What girl with one 
spark of pride, of dignity, could hesitate 
an instant ? Then how far less poor Claire 
Bailey, who is the soul of delicacy and 
honour ? ' and the vicar's voice changed in 
the darkness which concealed the tears that 
rushed to his eyes. 

1 Matthew, Matthew,' he went on, ' it is 
always doubtful how a man will act under 
his first great temptation. He is as the 
soldier for the first time under fire. Do 
not interrupt me — the most that can be 
said in any of our favours is that we have 
hitherto been worthy men. I hope for the 
best; but hear me. Know, at least, what 
you are about to do, if you trample con- 
science under the feet of passion. If you 
insult your betrothed bride by a mock option, 
there is in my mind no shade of uncertainty 

VOL. III. k 



146 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

as to the result. I would to God there were. 
Know, that as sure as you show her your 
heart as it now is, from that hour she will 
droop and die, and you will be her murderer.' 

Matthew's face worked as that of one in 
a fit, and he tried in vain to speak. 

* If I said one word short of that, I should 
be a mock counsellor and a mock friend. 
Good-night.' 

And Matthew was alone. 

The vicar had that rare but terrible 
quality, it was impossible not to be impressed 
by what he said. 



CHAPTER IX. 



A BREAKFAST TALK. 




REAKFAST at Fernwood Vicarage 
was a meal that was thoroughly 
understood. There was no such 
thing as dishes getting cold while the tea 
or coffee brewed. Mr Sivewright's estab- 
lishment was a small one, it is true ; but 
partly perhaps for that very reason he was 
better waited on than he would have been 
had* it been mounted on a grander scale. 
All his little dishes came up in single file 
hot and savoury, not even a muffin was 
allowed to stand a moment on the table 
to get leathery. Perfection in everything 
was the high standard to which the vicar 



148 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

aspired, and he believed it to be as essential 
in cookery as in code. 

The morning following his long talk with 
Matthew he came downstairs about nine, and 
found according, to orders, places laid for two ; 
but the expected guest had not yet arrived. 
The vicar rubbed his hands, stirred up the 
fire, looked round the room pleasantly ; it 
was evident he bore pleasurably in mind 
the conversation which had been held with 
Matthew on the previous evening, and 
which sleep, as far as the vicar was con- 
cerned, had not rendered less seemingly 
satisfactory. That Matthew would not 
marry Lady Valentina he believed ; but 
that she would bestow her smiles and her 
queenly person on himself, he was by no 
means so certain ; however, sufficient had 
happened since yesterday to render it quite 
antagonistic to his views that an alliance 
should take place between Lord Beaure- 
paire and Mrs Tremayne. To have Violet 



A Breakfast Talk. 149 

for a step-mamma-in-law was a ridiculous 
anomaly, at which the Rev. Lawrence could 
not even smile ; and yet he had pledged 
his word to preserve the duchess's name 
from being uttered by the tongue of scan- 
dal, and to get her letters returned to her. 
Truly Mr Sivewright, as he stands at the 
window, thinking while he is waiting, is 
becoming as ingenious a plotter as the 
pretty Violet herself. The click of the 
gate latch as it falls back into its place 
makes him look up. Mr John Varley, in 
the same Sunday suit he had worn when 
he first went to see Mrs Tremayne in 
London, is coming up the gravel walk. The 
vicar signs to him to open the door for 
himself, and to come straight in ; then he 
rings for breakfast. Well is it he does 
not hear Mrs Green's remarks in the 
kitchen about the kind of loose folk the 
master has taken up with, and how she 
never knew before that ' breakfasting with 



150 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

vagrants and ne'er-do-weels was any guar- 
antee as they'd get into heaven.' She did 
not lessen her culinary efforts, however, in 
consequence, and for her garrulity Mr Sive- 
wright did not care one jot. 

1 How are you, Varley ? It is better talk- 
ing here than under the trees in the moon- 
light. Green will give us some breakfast 
directly,' and the Rev. Lawrence shook his 
humble friend very warmly by the hand, 
and pushed a chair towards him. 

1 Thank your reverence ; you are very 
kind,' and Varley looked so bashful and 
unlike what he had been on the previous 
evening that Mr Sivewright felt more con- 
vinced than ever that he must then have 
been drinking ; even he failed to ascribe 
any eccentricities there were about this 
man to the power of the passion that was 
working within him. 

Yes, Varley was viewing life from a 
different point this morning. He had got 



A Breakfast Talk, 151 

up cheerier ; the vicar was inclined to 
prove his friend, he thought, and Varley 
was the sort of man who appreciated friend- 
ship, especially when bestowed by one so 
incomparably his superior ; besides, the 
genial aspect of the room influenced him. 
When does not geniality of surroundings 
and manner produce a salutary effect ? 
They fell to with their knives and forks, 
chatting of mere desultory subjects the 
while ; it was Mr Sivewright's object to 
put Cheap Jack quite at his ease. 

1 Is this the way swells breakfast every 
day ? ' asked the latter, when fish and broil 
having been despatched, a steaming savoury 
omelette made its appearance. ' 'Cause if 
it is, I ain't astonished as she wishes to 
bide where she is.' 

The vicar smiled ; he was aware, that 
Violet frequently developed strong gipsy 
tendencies. As yet he could not quite 
picture her sitting complacently under a 



152 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

hedge eating bread and bacon with a clasp- 
knife, which he made no doubt was Jack 
Varley's usual prandial habit. He did not 
wish, however, to irritate by any seeming 
amusement, so he said very gravely, — 

* Have you asked Mrs Tremayne to leave 
her sphere of life and join you in yours ? ' 

* Her sphere of life ! that's it, your 
reverence. What's her sphere of life ? 
How is she a bit better than me ? She's 
out of her sphere now, she is, and. how 
she has ever got hoisted I can't think.' 

1 I always thought that her father was a 
gentleman. I even think that you yourself 
told me so.' 

' I never knew what he was then — I do 
now. He was a black leg sharper ! ' 

' Exactly. I do not dispute his want of 
principle. But what was his birth ? ' 

' Well, it's queer, your reverence, ain't 
it ; but since I last talked to you I've 
fallen in with my old master in the tra- 



A Breakfast Talk. 



veiling menagerie, and he's told me a power 
of things. It seems that he and Pearls 
father was pals once.' 

' Indeed.' 

1 Ay. Simmons was his name.' 

1 Simmons,' repeated Mr Sivewright, con- 
descending to something very like a sneer. 

' That's it, sir. He was apprenticed when 
he was a boy to a clock-maker, and, from 
what I hear, was a skilled workman ; could 
make all the bits of machinery as is used 
for winding up musical toys ; but he wasn't 
steady, couldn't bear confinement to hours, 
so as soon as he was out of his apprentice- 
ship he was off, to live by his wits one day, 
his hands another, and how he could a third.' 

1 Dear me, dear me, I had no idea/ said 
the vicar, but he was delighted nevertheless. 

' It is true, sir, every word of it, and, as 
the old master was saying, it's odd, ain't it, 
how a man like that manages to shove along 
.and elevate hisself, where a steady-going re- 



154 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

spectable mechanic would be looked down 
on ? ' 

' Don't believe it, Varley — don't believe it ; 
a man like the one you describe, gets no 
respect, he even drags his family into the 
mud with which he has surrounded himself.' 

But Varley shook his head. 

' It's mud that don't stick to look dirty 
then,' he answered ; ' why, Pearl is as puffed 
up like as any lady in the land.' 

1 Hers is a very doubtful position— very 
doubtful, I should say,' said the vicar mean- 
ingly. 

'What, with that swell duchess for a 
friend ? ' asked Jack, ' though that's a rummy 
story too, that is.' 

Mr Sivewright pulled his chair a little nearer 
the table, and felt thankful that he had had 
the wisdom to ask Jack Varley to breakfast. 

' You know who the duchess was, of 
course ; you know her father was cotton, 
and had had a sight of money ? ' 



A Breakfast Talk. 155 

1 Yes, yes, yes,' repeated the vicar, to 
whom the allusion was just a little distasteful. 

1 Well, it's my experience of life, your 
reverence — you'll excuse me for saying so, 
that if a man means to grow blooming rich, he 
mustn't mind an occasional hand's-turn with 
the dirt. Old Benson was of this opinion, 
and Mr Simmons, that is Pearl's father, was 
one of his agents, employed by him to keep 
his weather eye open, and do any stroke of 
business for which Benson was too much of 
a gentleman. Under these circumstances 
the two girls naturally were " pals," and 
I must say it speaks well for the duchess 
her being civil to Pearl, now that she is 
such a big grand lady/ 

' The Duchess of Montarlis is goodness 
and kindness itself,' said Mr Sivewright 
rather pompously. 

He felt truly relieved that Mr Varley, 
who seemed to have been collecting infor- 
mation lately, knew nothing of that other 



1 56 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

story which formed so important a link 
between the two women. 

' Then there is that lord as is always after 
Pearl. I don't like him one bit, blessed if 
I do.' 

' How do you mean you do not like him ? ' 
and Mr Sivewright became much more 
stiff and upright than he usually was with 
inferiors. If Varley had any disagreeable 
revelations to make about the Beaurepaires, 
he was prepared to resent them to the 
fullest ; but Varley had no such intention, 
he only asked very simply, — 

1 Is he going to marry Pearl, your rever- 
ence ? ' 

1 No, no, certainly not ; such a thing were 
quite impossible.' 

' Then it is a pity he philanders about with 
her as he does,' he said sternly, veering 
round at once, and taking up the cudgels 
for Violet Tremayne, as soon as he was 
informed that his lordship had no intentions ; 



A Breakfast Talk. 157 

in his heart, however, only too thankful 
for the knowledge. 

'It is, I imagine, her own affair if she 
chooses to encourage a little flirtation,' said 
the vicar, still on the defensive. 

1 For years I thought as I wasn't sent 
into the world for any other purpose but to 
look after that girl.' 

' Still she seems thoroughly capable of 
taking care of herself.' 

John Varley groaned — did he not know 
it full well. 

Mr Sivewright pushed a silver stand 
containing ajar of honey towards Jack, and 
throwing himself back in his chair, crossed 
his legs with an air of physical and mental 
repletion which was quite cheering to 
behold. 

Varley's next question, however, after 
having for a minute been so engrossed in 
thought as to ignore the offer of the honey, 
made the vicar rouse himself. 



1 5 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 What would you advise me to do, your 
reverence ? ' 

1 How so — what do you mean ? In what 
way, what should you do ? ' 

' Well, I can't abear it much longer. She 
don't treat me even with the same respect 
as she would a dog. She ups with me to- 
day, and downs with me to-morrow, till I'm 
a-nigh off my head through her perversity; 
so I thought I'd just make so bold as to ask 
your reverence what you would do if you 
were in my place ? ' 

' I should go away if it were not pleasant 
to remain,' said the vicar drily. 

4 That's common sense advice with a 
vengeance,' cried Jack ; ' but what if you 
had not the courage ?' 

'My good friend, such a word as "coward " 
should be expunged from every English- 
man's vocabulary.' 

' But what good will going away do ? ' 
pleaded Jack. ' I sha'n't be any better off as 



A Breakfast Talk. 159 

I see. It is my belief she'll marry that lord 
— she means to, whatever you say to the 
contrary — and I shall be left out in the cold, 
whether I go or stay.' 

'I would almost pledge my word that 
Mrs Tremayne will not marry Lord Beaure- 
paire — it is a most improbable thing. Look 
here, Varley, you take my advice, start on 
one of your tours for — say a fortnight ; at the 
end of that time come and breakfast with 
me again. I think you will find that during 
that period a good many things have 
happened, and that you yourself will be 
in a fitter frame of mind for overcoming 
the difficulties of life. Do you agree ? ' 

'Well, your reverence, I came here fully 
prepared to ask your advice, and to abide by 
it whatever it was, and so, though it is a bit 
disagreeable like to go away, still, if you 
think it's the best thing, well I'll do it, 
and leave my interests in your reverence's 
keeping.' 



1 60 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 Spoken like a man, Varley. Rest as- 
sured I'll watch over them scrupulously.' 

The vicar's interests and Mr Varley's, in 
this instance, were identical ; but even had 
they not been so, Mr Sivewright was far 
too conscientious to break faith with his 
humble companion, having promised to 
serve him. It was agreed that on that day 
week Varley should be at a certain town, 
about fifty miles from Fernwood, in order 
that the vicar might address a letter there 
if needful. 

It was the vicar's intention during the next 
few days to strike a blow — enact a coup d'etat 
on his own responsibility, in fact— and he 
scarcely knew as yet whether the presence 
or absence of Varley would be the most con- 
ducive to success. He had learnt a good 
deal about Violet and her affairs through 
this conversation ; but Mr Sivewright was 
not the sort of man who would condescend 
to use a spy ; hence he did not care to have 



A Breakfast Talk. 161 

Mr Varley prowling about on the detective ; 
added to which, he bond fide believed that 
it was better for the man himself that he 
should go away for a time. 

Thus, after a little more talk, they parted. 
Cheap Jack took the road to Hurton, walk- 
ing very slowly, however, and with his 
head hanging down, his eyes reading the 
ground, looking very much like a naughty 
boy sent unwillingly to school. 

Mr Sivewright, meantime, walked up and 
down his study, to which he had betaken 
himself on Varley's departure, and smiled 
with a certain amount of complacent satis- 
faction. The game was in his own hand, 
if he only managed to play the cards aright. 
A stormy interview with Violet was impera- 
tive — of that he felt certain, and perhaps he 
looked forward to it with some degree of 
satisfaction, though it was scarcely the* coup 
de main on which he relied. So during the 
few hours which had elapsed since his con- 

VOL. III. l 



1 62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

versation with Matthew, the Rev. Lawrence 
had determined to offer himself, his fortune, 
and his well-appointed vicarage to the Lady 
Valentina. The thought of what the duchess 
and Mrs Desborough would say when they 
knew it amused him not a little, for Mr 
Sivewright, notwithstanding his erudition and 
his dignity, was quite vain enough to feel 
a pleasure in rousing the jealousy of women. 
Only suppose that Lady Valentina should 
refuse him ? But then, how would they 
know aught of what had passed ; for surely 
so high-born a dame would scarcely conde- 
scend to the vulgar vice of tattling ? He 
would not broach the subject too hurriedly ; 
however, it were as well perhaps to recon- 
noitre the ground a little more carefully 
before committing himself. 

So the morning being fine, he thought he 
would take a stroll through the Vantage 
grounds in the hope of meeting some of the 
home party. A few dexterously put leading 



A Breakfast Talk. 163 

questions would, he imagined, give him an 
idea if there had been any change in the 
respective positions of Valentina or Violet 
since yesterday. He felt inclined for a walk ; 
perhaps by a circuitous route he might at 
last find himself at Montarlis about luncheon 
time. Drinking in the sunshine, and dream- 
ing pleasantly as he drank, he wandered 
through the little village, now acknowledging 
the children's curtsies by a friendly nod ; 
now saying a few kindly words to different 
parishioners as he passed them. To each 
and all the passing thought came, that the 
vicar was looking cheery and content this 
morning. 

An hour later, when he returned that way, 
he walked hurriedly on, without bestowing 
one token of recognition ; the smiles on his 
face had turned to frowns, the happy dreamy 
look to one of dark moody preoccupation. 




CHAPTER X. 

FROM GLOOM TO LIGHT. 

UT little sleep visited Matthew's 
pillow after his conversation with. 
Mr Sivewright. In a moment of 
impetuosity he had decided to make as it 
were one last appeal against Fate, by placing 
the direction of his affairs in the Rev. Law- 
rence's hands ; the vicar, however, had de- 
cided with Matthew's own conscience-, and — 
for Claire ; and Matthew was resolved to 
abide by that decision. He knew full well 
that the weak point of his character was 
vacillation, and he had frequently prayed — 
oh, so strenuously — against it; but prayers 
without a determined assistance of works 
he knew were of little avail. This was 



From Gloom to Light. 165 

Matthew's first great temptation, as Mr 
Sivewright had said ; ' it should be over- 
come/ he resolved, ' he would conquer and 
be strong. Peace surely would come at last 
as a sweet reward.' 

So all night he wrestled with the 
demons who were struggling for ascend- 
ancy, but from among whom Claire's pure 
face seemed to be ever looking plaintively 
and upbraidingly forth as Mr Sivewright's 
parting words, ' she will droop and die, and 
you will be her murderer/ rang perpetually 
in his ears. He had been much inclined 
of late to accuse her of coldness and in- 
difference, but the vicar's words had roused 
him into some consideration for her feel- 
ings ; from consideration there was but one 
step in Matthew's excitable temperament to 
frenzy, and by the time the grey morning 
light crept into his room, he had decided 
that Mr Sivewright had received some pri- 
vate information of Claire's state, and that 



1 66 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

he knew she was in extremis on his account. 
Verily, it was a desperately real picture the 
vicar had been unwittingly drawing ; for he 
had not heard aught either directly or in- 
directly of the Baileys since they had left 
England. 

About seven o'clock exhausted nature 
refused to endure a greater amount of 
mental pressure, and Matthew fell asleep ; 
nor did he wake till late in the day, thus 
avoiding all necessity for making an appear- 
ance at the family breakfast-table ; a fact 
which called forth no especial comment, as 
owing partly to his spasmodic habits, partly 
to feebleness of physical power, he not un- 
frequently indulged in sleep after the rest 
of the world was wakeful and busy. As 
still half dozing he stretched himself back 
into a state of consciousness, he felt like a 
man who had been ill for weeks, and who 
is gradually passing into convalescence. 
The great rush of passion which, during 



From Gloom to Light. 167 

some hours, had borne down on him as 
though it would carry him away in its 
torrent, had passed. Mr Sivewright had 
opened the sluices and ably directed its 
course. The first object Matthew's eye 
fell on was Claire's photograph, which had 
hung over his mantel-piece for many months, 
having been given to him in the days of 
their boy and girl friendship, long before 
any engagement had existed between them. 

1 My sweet little Claire, and to think how 
nearly I was untrue to you,' he murmured ; 
' this very morning I will write you a long 
letter, plead my suit urgently, and place 
temptation beyond my reach.' 

Matthew was arranging for the future, 
without calculating on the ordeals through 
which he had yet to pass. Naturally, a 
meeting with Lady Valentina was what he 
dreaded above all things, though he was 
fully aware that, living as they were doing 
under the same roof, it could not in the 



1 68 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ordinary course of events be long delayed ; 
and therefore he wisely argued that he 
would not attempt to avoid it, but would 
let matters take their course. 

After a hasty breakfast, eaten more from 
duty than because he really wanted it, 
Matthew was proceeding to the library, 
which at this hour was usually untenanted, 
with the intention of writing his letter, 
when his mother, opening the door of her 
boudoir, called to him to come in. Escape 
was impossible, and Matthew, much against 
his will, found himself in the midst of a 
little circle of morning visitors, to whom 
Mrs Desborough took a sort of dismal 
pleasure in presenting him as ' My only 
son.' He looked round the room hastily. 
' Lady Valentina was not there, that at 
least was a mercy ; ' so he set himself to 
talk energetic platitudes, with a courage 
which showed plainly how thoroughly in 
earnest he was in his endeavour to be 



From Gloom to Light. 169 

honest and true. The party consisted of 
a mother and two daughters, rather pretty 
girls, but lately emancipated from the school- 
room. Matthew had never seen them be- 
fore, nor from his mother's introduction did 
he make out their name. He imagined 
them to be new arrivals in the neighbour- 
hood, which indeed they were ; and Mrs 
Desborough, from her exceeding civility, 
evidently intended to foster them. They 
were in fact the last pets, and although 
quite new acquaintances, the only people 
except her old friends that she had seen 
since poor George's death. 

Matthew set himself to talk to the eldest 
girl, who, although she was barely eighteen, 
was not in the least shy, but carried on the 
conversation so very glibly, that he soon 
felt he had nothing to do but appear to 
listen, putting in an occasional yes or no, 
not, however, quite in the right places, 
since his thoughts were wandering far away 



1 70 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

from the mere county gossip and pretty- 
nothings with which this young lady was 
striving to amuse him ; at last she said, — 

' You must know the Baileys, do you 
not, Mr Desborough ? My cousin Frank 
Leverton writes that he has met them 
abroad. They are at Mentone, I believe.' 

' I think — I believe so — yes/ and Mat- 
thew became suddenly interested. 

1 He gives a terrible account of Miss 
Bailey ; says he never saw any one looking 
so changed and ill in all his life. He went 
to Mentone to — ' 

' Good God ! ' The startling exclamation 
and the blanched appearance, the sort of 
horror depicted on Matthew's face, arrested 
the young lady in the middle of her sentence, 
and she murmured in a frightened voice, — 

' What have I said ? Oh, I am so 
sorry — ' 

Her words recalled Matthew somewhat 
to his senses. 



Front Gloom to Light. 171 

1 Claire Bailey and I were brought up 
together as children,' he explained, speaking 
very fast. ' I had no idea she was ill. Tell 
me quickly what you know about her/ 

There was a sort of authority mixed 
up with the rapidity with which Matthew 
delivered this sentence, which, as it were, 
commanded obedience. 

The girl answered, although in a very 
frightened voice, as though she feared an- 
other outbreak on the part of this somewhat 
eccentric Mr Desborough. 

1 Frank only says that she looks very 
ill, and has quite lost all her bright gay 
manner ; that Lady Laura is very anxious 
about her, and that — ' 

But Matthew did not stop for any more. 
A sort of attempt at ' Thank you ' fell from 
his white lips, and he was gone. He felt he 
could not have endured to stay in that room 
for another moment, whatever remarks his 
sudden flight might occasion ; so, setting 



172 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

courtesy and conventionality on one side, 
he dashed out into the open air, where his 
over-wrought feelings could at least have 
scope to rage at will. 

' She will droop and die, and you will be 
her murderer,' — he repeated the words over 
and over, as he sped across the park without 
either knowing or caring whither he went. 

' Could he ever forgive himself ; should 
he ever dare to lift up his head again if 
anything happened to Claire ? Sweet, darling 
little Claire, who had loved him with all his 
many faults so truly and so constantly ? ' 

Ay, Mr Sivewright's words had taken 
root ; for had they never been spoken, it in 
all probability would not have occurred to 
Matthew to imagine that his faithlessness 
had aught to do with Claire's illness. 

Now this news coming after his conver- 
sation with the vicar, and after the night 
of feverish agitation he had passed, worked 
him to such a pitch of frenzy, that any one 



From Gloom to Light. 173 

who had seen him tearing through the 
Vantage grounds would have imagined he 
was an escaped maniac. The violent exer- 
cise, however, helped to work off some of 
the excitement, and he had become to some 
slight degree more like a reasonable being by 
the time — having taken at least a five miles' 
walk — that he found himself in the little wood 
near the house. Lady Valentina was sitting 
under a tree reading. She looked up when 
she saw Matthew, and an exclamation of, — 

• Good gracious, Mr Desborough, how ill 
you look ! What has happened ? ' fell from 
her lips. 

1 I have had very bad news/ he an- 
swered, more quietly than might have been 
expected. ' I am going to start for Mentone 
to-night/ 

Matthew had fully made up his mind now 
how he meant to act. It was, therefore; 
useless to falsify his position with Lady 
Valentina any farther. 



1 74 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Going to start for Mentone ? Who is 
at Mentone ? ' 

' Claire, my darling little Claire, whose 
murderer I shall be if I dally here any 
longer.' 

Lady Valentina turned white, and a sharp 
low cry as if of pain escaped her involun- 
tarily ; but he looked at her very fixedly, 
almost brutally. In his extravagant remorse 
he could not help associating her as a 
partner in the great wrong that had been 
inflicted on Claire. He quite forgot that his 
behaviour to Valentina herself merited some 
reprobation ; he quite forgot that but yester- 
day he had professed to love her. The only 
idea in his mind was that since murder must 
be perpetrated to effect their union, any 
communication he might hold with Valen- 
tina was a deadly sin, and thus it was almost 
with a feeling of loathing that he stood 
looking at her, with a haggard white face 
and wide open staring eyes. 



From Gloom to Light. 175 

1 My God ! Matthew, are you — ' and the 
calm, proud woman gave utterance to an 
unusual mode of speech in her excitement. 

But he did not let her finish her sentence. 

I I am in my senses, Lady Valentina, 
fully in my senses, and very resolute. I 
have bowed to your sovereignty quite long 
enough, and neglected my duty. This very 
night I start to fulfil it. Do not speak to 
me or attempt to hinder me, for it is use- 
less.' 

I I don't know what you mean by hinder- 
ing you, Mr Desborough. I think I have 
always urged a strict regard for duty,' and 
she looked as coldly regal as if she were 
incapable of passion. Matthew's words had 
roused her pride, and it stood her in good 
stead now. 

1 Perhaps you have forgotten,' she added, 
' that I hear of this duty to which you allude 
for the first time to-day.' 

'And whose fault was that ? What but 



1 76 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the witching power of your beauty, the charm 
of your conversation, the fascination of — ' 

1 Mr Desborough!' 

And Lady Valentina turned from him, 
and proceeded to walk slowly towards the 
house. He stopped her, however, and seiz- 
ing her by the hand with a force she could 
not withstand, he began to cover it with 
kisses. 

' Do not part from me in anger. I have 
been very, very miserable ; but what can I 
do ? To act otherwise would be murder. 
My honour demands it — Claire must be 
saved.' 

She wrenched her hand from him with 
some difficulty, and said coldly, — 

' Enough, Mr Desborough. No explana- 
tion is necessary ; be brave and true.' 

1 And you will still be my friend ? ' he 
pleaded. 

There was a moment of silence, and then 
she said very firmly, — 



From Gloom to Light. 177 

' Yes. Why not ? ' 

Once more he caught her hand and raised 
it, this time almost deferentially, to his lips — 
another second and Lady Valentina had left 
him, and he did not again attempt to stop her. 

1 Then the story of his engagement to 
Claire Bailey was true. I wonder why every 
one combined to deceive me ? ' she murmured 
softly to herself, too dazed as yet to compre- 
hend it fully. 

She did not see Matthew again before he 
started for Mentone. 

Skirting the little wood on his return to 
the vicarage, Mr Sivewright had witnessed a 
portion of this scene, although he was too far 
off to hear a single word. Matthew, as it ap- 
peared to him, pleaded ardent love, to which 
the lady did not seem to have been wholly 
cold ; hence the cloud which had descended 
on his brow during his walk — his aspect 
having been so very serene when he left the 
house. 

VOL. III. M 



ij& Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 If Lady Valentina can care for an unre- 
flecting irresolute boy like that, her affection 
and high esteem are not worth the winning/ 
was his verdict, as, seating himself in his 
arm-chair, he conned over the events of the 
last twenty-four hours. And even with 
Mr Sivewright, philosopher though he was, 
human weakness showed itself for a time, and 
he was dissatisfied and out of temper with 
the rest of mankind. Even his books did 
not prove companionable that afternoon. As 
the sun's rays — for it was a bright, glad day- 
danced aslant his window, they irritated him. 

' It was too fine a day to be spent in 
reading,' he said ; he wanted a companion, 
solitude palled. 

The groom from Vantage rode up to the 
gate with a note. ' Dine there again to- 
night ! ' — no that he would not, the vicar 
determined before he had even stretched 
out his hand for the missive. Not Mrs 
Desborough's writing, but Matthew's. 



From Gloom to Light. 179 

' Dear Friend, — I am off tonight for Men- 
tone. Claire, I hear, is ill. I trust to you to 
remove all obstacles with my mother. There 
is no farther impediment, since only Claire 
really loves me. — Yours sincerely, M. D.' 

1 No answer,' said the vicar to the waiting 
servant as he glanced over these lines, and at 
once the sunshine became delightful, life a 
boon, the earth a paradise, and he stretched 
himself with a sense of utter satisfaction. 

1 Wilful, impetuous youth,' he thought 
smiling. ' So he actually proposed to Lady 
Valentina after all ; and it is only after being 
absolutely refused that he is going to Men- 
tone to join the Baileys. All things con- 
sidered, Lady Valentina was scarcely likely 
to marry Matthew Desborough.' 

And laying this flattering unction to his 
soul, the vicar began to plan out in his mind 
how he should deliberately and effectually lay 
siege to Valentina on his own behalf. A 



1 80 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

coadjutrix he must have, he decided, and that 
coadjutrix could scarcely be Mrs Desborough 
he further affirmed, with rather a conceited 
smile. Perhaps the duchess would do, she 
was a younger and less exacting woman ; she 
might be more inclined to help. But first he 
must get that business of the letters into 
working order. Truly, Mr Sivewright was 
oppressed by the weight of many small in- 
trigues at this juncture. 




CHAPTER XL 



WHAT IS THE PRICE f 




Lord Beaurepaire only had 
some of the impetuosity with 
which George Desborough was 
so largely endowed, he would be perfect ! ' 
Violet mutters to herself. 

She is a little cured of her infatuation for 
the grand old lord, that is, of her pre- 
dilection for himself, apart from his title and 
position, by the hot and cold process he had 
brought to bear on her, never allowing a 
gush of warm feeling to be otherwise than 
succeeded by a douche of frigidity. 

The Duke and Duchess of Montarlis had 
gone to Paris — it was a sudden whim of the 



1 82 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

duke's, for which no one could exactly account 
— perhaps he saw signs of coming disturbances 
in the social atmosphere, and did not wish his 
wife to be in any way connected with them. 
It was always difficult to arrive at the duke's 
motives, or even to be certain that he had 
any ; but, though reserved in speech, he was 
decided and peremptory in action, and the 
duchess found herself compelled to accompany 
him to Paris, perhaps not quite unwillingly. 

As for Violet Tremayne, she was not 
invited to accompany the ducal party ; so 
she found herself once more in the ' toy 
house' in London. It, however, scarcely pre- 
sented its usual luxuriously finished- aspect, 
Violet only having been in town two days, 
during which time she had not felt in the 
mood for making her Lares and Penates 
become the envy of her neighbours. The 
Beaurepaires had left Vantage Park, but 
had not returned to Belgrave Square, hav- 
ing accepted an invitation to stay for a few 



What is the Price ? 



days at another house in the north, with the 
sister of the late Countess of Beaurepaire, 
1 who of course, will back up Lady Valentina 
in her objection to her father's second mar- 
riage,' declared Violet, speaking half aloud to 
herself, as she kicked a footstool with a 
wasted amount of energy across the room. 
' It is hateful, positively hateful, there is no 
getting what one wants in this world ; but 
some one shall pay if I am disappointed. I 
should not wonder if I were to bleed Julia. 
She might have clinched this business if she 
had liked ; but she is far too selfish. She 
has got into a good position herself, and she 
does not care for any one else. I'll make 
her feel her want of interest in me, that I 
will.' And Violet gave such an irritable 
thrust at a little bookshelf, on which she was 
arranging some books, while she soliloquised 
over her affairs, that she knocked .it out 
of its proper balance, and down came all 
the books clattering with noisy discord, a 



1 84 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

volume of Consuelo striking Cheap Jack's 
glass balloon as it fell, and breaking the airy 
plaything into a thousand atoms. Violet 
stood for a moment as though stunned ; then 
a naughty word, a French one, fell from her 
lips. The crackling as of some broken glass 
made her look round. 

Mr Sivewright had been announced at the 
very moment of the clamour, but she had 
heard nothing except the descent of books 
till he accidentally trod on a fragment of 
the little balloon. 

1 Good gracious ! ' and Violet coloured up 
as she noted the amused smile on his face, 
and felt that the situation, as far as she was 
concerned, was truly ridiculous. 

1 Did he hear that naughty word ? ' she 
wondered. She would have repeated it for 
his especial benefit if she dared. Having 
recovered herself with an effort, she burst 
out laughing a little spitefully. 

1 Those are all French novels,' she said, 



What is the Price ? 185 

pushing one or two of the books aside with 
her foot. ' I suppose they knew there was 
a strait-laced parson in the house, so they 
tumbled at his feet out of respect/ 

1 I am afraid my visit is inopportune ! ' 
answered Mr Sivewright politely. ' I am 
sorry.' 

'Oh, I don't mind if you don't. It is a 
nuisance the books tumbling about ; but it 
would be quite as bad if you were not here. 
You may pick them up if you like.' 

This was scarcely an occupation which 
befitted the dignified Sivewright, who had 
intended to be more than usually imposing 
on this occasion ; but it was his turn to make 
himself ridiculous. He placed two of the 
books on a table close by, and then sug- 
gested that it was rather dangerous stooping 
among the broken glass. 

' Oh, there is a little broom somewhere ; but 
I forgot you cannot sweep it up. " Rien n'est 
beau comme l'inutile," ' and she rang the bell. 



1 86 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Arrange all that, Tom ! ' she said when 
the page entered, and then, instead of talking 
to Mr Sivewright, she gave orders about the 
replacement of her books, interspersed with 
occasional conversation with her dog, and some 
loving remarks to an exceedingly noisy canary. 

During all this time Mr Sivewright sat 
waiting silently. What could he want, she 
wondered ; and curiosity at last getting the 
better of her ill-breeding, she told Tom to 
be off and leave the rest of the books for 
arrangement at some other time. Then 
came the tug of war. Violet sat down in a 
large arm-chair and looked at her visitor, 
who, she felt sure, had not come there for the 
love of her, but for some sinister purpose. 

' If you have anything disagreeable to say, 
please say it and have done with it ! ' she 
exclaimed, as Tom shut the door. 

Mr Sivewright did not fence or make any 
polite speeches about how impossible it 
would be for him to make disagreeable 



What is the Price? 187 

remarks to a lady ; but he merely said very 
quietly, — 

* I have come for some letters addressed 
by a certain Sardinian nobleman to the 
Duchess of Montarlis, before her marriage.' 

1 Indeed ! ' and it was difficult to say 
whether amusement or anger were the pre- 
dominant feeling with Violet when she heard 
this statment. ' And you are the fair Julia' s 
ambassador. She has tried a good many 
dodges in order to get back those letters, 
and at last has had recourse to you.' 

1 I am very much surprised that one 
gentlewoman should seek to detain letters 
belonging to another against her will.' 

1 So am I, Mr Sivewright ; it is not the 
sort of thing that would happen if there 
were any honesty in the world ; but there 
is not, and so in self-defence I am- com- 
pelled to keep the letters.' 

' How so ? ' 

1 Well, Julia is not to be relied on, though 



1 88 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

I daresay you think she is. She would have 
dropped my acquaintance with the coolest 
effrontery long ago if I had not held these 
letters, and that would not have exactly 
suited my views.' 

' What price do you require ? ' he asked, 
as coolly as if he were bargaining for fruit 
or flowers with a market girl. 

' What price ? ' she echoed. 

' Yes, everything in this world has a price. 
These letters, I presume, have theirs.' 

1 And are you prepared to pay it ? ' 

Mr Sivewright's object was to make her 
acknowledge to him, as she had done to 
the duchess, that Lord Beaurepaire's hand 
was the price she demanded for the letters ; 
but the last little vestige of womanhood that 
was left in her rebelled against such a con- 
fession. She only said, in a light off-hand 
manner, — 

' Oh, I don't ask much ; only position and 
wealth.' 



What is the Price? 1S9 

' And if you do not obtain these, you will — ' 
' Send the letters to the duke, I suppose.' 
1 The result of which will be your igno- 
minious expulsion from all good society for 
the future. Believe me, it is a short-sighted 
policy, Mrs Tremayne.' 

* In your wisdom can you suggest a better 
one ? ' and there was a sneer in her voice 
as she spoke. He did not affect to mark 
it, however, but answered cordially, — 

• I hope so ; especially as I observe you are 
acting somewhat in the dark ; there are one 
or two facts in connection with this business, 
of which I do not think you are cognisant.' 

1 Will it please your reverence to enlighten 
me?' 

The vicar bowed. 

' The duke, it seems, has already heard 
something about these letters. It is at his 
request that I am here to-day.' 

' Indeed ! Does his grace wish me to 
post them to him at once ? ' 



i oo Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 No, Mrs Tremayne, he wishes you to 
put your price on them and give them to 
me.' 

1 I don't know what the duke means by 
putting my price on them,' said Violet 
with irritation. 

' He means that if you give the letters 
to me now, without any fuss or trouble, he 
is ready to make over for your use such 
a sum of money as will render it unneces- 
sary for you to be any longer a hanger-on 
of his wife. If you do not do so, the gates 
of Montarlis Castle will be none the less 
closed on you, and you may occasionally find 
yourself rather inconvenienced for money.' 

She looked at him for a second, and then 
she burst out laughing. 

' You enjoy this, do you not, Mr Sive- 
wright ? So nice, isn't it, to be able to let 
out a little of my life's blood ? ' 

' Pardon me, Mrs Tremayne. The suf- 
ferings of other people scarcely form part 



What is the Price ? 191 

of my catalogue of enjoyments,' and the 
vicar looked so superbly dignified that Mrs 
Tremayne was compelled to forego bravado 
and return to business. 

' I think I shall keep those letters a little 
longer ; I may not require the Duchess of 
Montarlis' patronage in the future.' 

' I should advise immediate terms ; if you 
condescend to ask my advice in a friendly 
spirit,' said the vicar very softly. 

' Go on. What else do you know ? 
There is something behind all that bland- 
ness.' 

' Lord Beaurepaire has pledged his word 
to his daughter that — ' 

' He will not marry me ? ' and, brave to 
the last, she tried to laugh out the words ; 
but she looked ghastly white. 

1 Exactly. The position of your late 
father, the avocations you yourself fol- 
lowed in your childhood ; above all, your 
later well-known love for play, render a 



192 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

marriage with you a mesalliance which no 
Beaurepaire could brook. I am exceed- 
ingly sorry to be the bearer of so much 
bad news.' 

1 A very kind sentiment, I am sure, from 
my bitterest enemy ! ' 

' Your enemy, Mrs Tremayne ! It were 
ill in accordance with my calling to be 
the enemy of any one. Those actions of 
mine which have seemed inimical to you 
have merely been prompted by an ardent 
love of truth.' 

' Bother truth ! ' cried Violet ; ' you can 
leave it to unravel itself fast enough when 
it suits you. How about the child you 
put to school at Hammersmith four or five 
years ago, and whom you go to see peri- 
odically, although you leave the poor little 
wretch there all the holidays ? Possibly 
you are not more immaculate than your 
neighbours, notwithstanding your great sem- 
blance of truthfulness.' 



What is the Price ? 193 

' It is scarcely a breach of truth to seek to 
cover a fault by silence/ 

' Then you do acknowledge that there is 
a fault?' 

6 A fault, yes ; but none of mine, on my 
honour, though I would rather you thought 
me ten times guilty than that I should 
allow myself to reveal the names of the 
parents of this child. They are both dead, 
let their memory rest in peace.' 

( Mr Lently's eldest girl has gone to the 
same school,' explained Mrs Tremayne ; 
' the world of one's acquaintances is small, 
you know. Mrs Giles took the Lently child 
to school, and she recognised your protdgde! 

1 Mrs Giles — what ! the eccentric widow 
at Ravensholme ? ' 

'Just so. Revelations seem to be mutual 
to-day, Mr Sivewright.' 

'Mrs Giles ! — I am perplexed to know 
where she can have seen that unhappy 
child before.' 

VOL. III. N 



1 94 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 Oh, she has known you for years. Knew 
you when you and Mr Wharton were so 
much together in London.' 

' I have not the faintest recollection of her ; 
however, if she by any means has learned 
the real story of my prot^gde, she is disloyal 
to have divulged it. If she does not know 
it, why air her ignorance ? But to business, 
Mrs Tremayne, as I am going to see this 
same child at Hammersmith before I leave 
London.' 

I You do not offer me money to hold my 
tongue.' 

He smiled as if he thought the remark 
were beneath contempt, and said rather posi- 
tively, — 

I I shall feel obliged if you will give me 
those letters quickly.' 

She walked to the little escritoire and took 
out a bundle of untidy dirty-looking letters. 

1 I wonder how much they are worth ? ' she 
said. 



What is the Price ? 195 

1 An annuity of two hundred pounds a- 
year, provided you give your word never to 
molest either the duke or duchess again, and 
never seek to enter any house in which they 
may be living/ 

She threw the bundle of letters straight 
at Mr Sivewright, nearly hitting him in 
the face ; he caught it, however, with some 
dexterity. 

The magnitude of the duke's offer had so 
taken her by surprise, that she accepted at 
once, without any farther argument. Then 
it suddenly struck her that the action had 
been a rash one. 

' I suppose I- can trust you ? ' she asked. 

1 We will have strict business and no ques- 
tions of trusting,' he answered ' Have the 
goodness to give me a sheet of paper.' 

He just glanced at the bundle of letters he 
held in his hand, so as to make sure they 
were in the writing of the noble Julia, and, 
having farther obtained some sealing-wax 



196 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

and a light, he sealed them up with Mrs Tre- 
mayne's seal, and requested her to address 
them to the duchess, and then he put them 
in his pocket. 

1 Now/ presenting the ducal paper promis- 
ing to pay her two hundred pounds a-year 
on certain provisos, ' have the goodness to 
sign this paper, and remember that any one 
of these conditions being broken, the duke's 
lawyers have orders to stop your annuity/ 

She signed her name with a flourish. 

Mr Sivewright laid fifty pounds in notes 
on the table, being a quarter's payment 
in advance, and then rose to take his 
departure. 

1 Two hundred a-year the richer, and a 
whole bevy of friends and pleasant acquaint- 
ances the poorer,' said Violet, as she sat 
down on the arm of a chair and looked 
comically miserable. ' I was fond of Julia, 
too, after my fashion. I can't help it if 
chance has given me more wits than heart, 



What is the Price ? 197 

can I, Mr Sivewright ? and yet I am punished 
for the uneven balancing of the scales — it is 
hard. Dear me, I shall have to let this 
house after all, I suppose ? ' 

1 The wisest thing you can do, and go 
abroad, for a time at all events.' 

' Gracious ! why, you are as bad as the 
doctors ; they always send patients abroad 
when they don't know what to do with 
them here.' 

And so, thanks to Violet's wonderful 
capacity for adapting herself to circum- 
stances with a joke they parted, notwith- 
standing the unpleasant nature of their 
interview. 

1 Should she go abroad or should she have 
another throw with the dice ? ' she asked 
herself as soon as he was gone. She did 
not quite believe what he had told her 
about Lord Beaurepaire. If it were true 
the old lord had been coerced into it — 
of that she was quite certain, and could she 



igS Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

not by the power of her fascinations bring 
him back to his slavery ? Then she decided 
it was useless to try. If they had managed 
to discover any incident of her past career in 
the slums, it would not be much good striv- 
ing to make any farther impression on that 
proud aristocratic old noodle. No, she had 
better go abroad, or she would be forfeiting 
her annuity by some rashness. 4 Ay, you 
must start afresh in life, my beauty, Vi,' she 
went on, addressing herself, * without a friend 
in the world, without a friend,' and she laid 
her head against the side of the chair, 
and closed her eyes, from which slowly 
trickled down her cheeks two or three un- 
bidden tears. 

She thought for a moment of George 
Desborough, feeling sure that he would 
not have been talked into giving her up so 
easily ; draping the dead, as one not unusu- 
ally does, with a magnanimous robe, and 
almost persuading herself into the belief that 



What is the Price ? 1 99 

she had loved him. On that other faithful 
heart that waited and watched for her, she 
did not bestow a thought. Even as she sat 
there, viewing regretfully her fallen social 
fortunes, she would scarcely have been 
grateful had she been reminded of the 
existence of Cheap Jack Varley's unwaver- 
ing love. 





CHAPTER XII. 

LOVING WORDS. 

HE weather was hot in the south 
of France, that is, during the 
day when the sun was out ; the 
invalids sat about in summery garments with 
large sunshades, and drank in draughts of 
life, and with it hope ; but the warmer it 
grew the more pretty Claire seemed to 
fade, neither life nor hope came to her as 
welcome visitors with the sun's rays. 

1 She was not ill, she assured Lady Laura, 
in answer to her repeated questions, only it 
was so hot, it made her tired.' 

So Lady Laura had the boxes packed up 
and determined to try what cooler breezes 



Loving Words. 201 

among the lakes of North Italy would effect. 
Perhaps a little travelling would amuse the 
child. But when Claire was not looking 
the silent tears would fall. From her heart 
she feared that no change would bring back 
the roses to Claire's cheeks. The seat of the 
evil lay deeper than either doctors or mother 
could reach. Claire watched the preparations 
for departure, as she watched every other pro- 
gressive act in life, with a dreary ' What does 
it matter ? ' look in her sweet young face. 
Had she spoken on the subject she could 
have told how she would far rather have 
been going back to Swanover ; but she said 
nothing. The. future was all a weary waste, 
she thought, and it did not matter much upon 
which part of it she stood. So the maid, 
under Lady Laura's directions, packed the 
trunks, while Claire, like an unquiet spirit, 
wandered from room to room looking on 
apparently at the preparations, though in 
reality she heeded them but little. 



202 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Wednesday morning at ten o'clock had 
been the time fixed for departure, but Claire 
had asked for one day's delay. 

1 Wherefore?' was the question that puzzled 
Lady Laura. She had no interests at Men- 
tone, no friends, not even any acquaintances 
who charmed her. Why should she want to 
linger one day beyond the settled date for 
their departure ? 

Matthew had not written for some little 
time. To give one more day for the chance 
of receiving a letter was Claire's real object ; 
though she knew she could not trust her voice 
to tell her mother what she felt on the sub- 
ject; and Lady Laura was too discreet to ask. 
She merely said, very gently and kindly, — 

' As you will, my Claire. Thursday, then, 
we will go ! ' and as far as discussion was 
concerned there was an end of the matter. 
The rooms in the hotel, after everything 
had been packed away ready for departure, 
did not present the most cheerful appear- 



Loving Words. 203 

ance, and Lady Laura suggested that she 
and Claire should go for a drive, and come 
back to a late dinner. 

4 And the post,' thought Claire, ' which 
cannot fail to bring a letter to-day, since I 
have waited for it ; though perhaps, after 
all, it will only tell me of his marriage with 
Lady Valentina,' and such a curious grey 
look came over her face as the vision of 
Matthew married to Lady Valentina rose be- 
fore her mind, that Lady Laura gave a little 
cry of pain when she saw it ; startling, the colour 
back into Claire's ashy cheeks as she asked, — 

1 What is it, mother dear ? ' 

1 Nothing, my child, nothing. I thought 
you looked — ' 

1 Oh ! I am all right, darling mother ; let 
us go and have a drive.' 

So the carriage came round, and -some 
cushions were put in for Claire to lie back 
on ; for some weeks past the effort of sitting 
up in a carriage had been too great for her. 



204 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



They went along the Corniche road ; but 
neither mother nor daughter seemed fully to 
appreciate the wondrous beauty of its scenery, 
they were both too absorbed in their own 
reflections. But few words were spoken ; 
what could they talk of since each was striv- 
ing so strenuously to deceive the other ? 

At last arrived at the little quiet hotel 
which was their temporary residence, Lady 
Laura got out of the carriage, and then 
turned to help Claire, from whose youth 
all the buoyancy seemed to have departed, 
as slowly, almost painfully leaning on her 
mother's arm, she walked across . a small 
hall which divided their rooms — which were 
on the ground floor — from the outer door. 

' Any letters ? Is the English mail in ? ' 
she asked a gargon as she passed him. 

At last Lady Laura had learned the reason 
for wishing to pass another day at Mentone. 

' None for mademoiselle, but — ' 

Claire heard no more, her fingers tight- 



Loving Words. 205 

ened on her mother's arm as she walked 
into the sitting-room. 

Ah! 

The hot blood flushed with crimson sud- 
denness across her face ; then it became, if 
possible, more ashy white than it had been of 
late. She started from her mother's side, but 
her feeble limbs refused to do their office, and 
she tottered against the door ; in a moment 
a strone arm was round her, and the white 
face sank on Matthew's shoulder as con- 
sciousness forsook her. 

' You should not have come so suddenly, 
you have killed her,' said Lady Laura 
severely. 

Matthew made no answer, but carrying 
Claire, to a sofa, laid her down, tenderly 
arranging the pillows under her head. Then 
he knelt beside her and kissed her on the fore- 
head and lips, whispering softly, ' My Claire, 
if I had but known,' as he held her there. 

Lady Laura came forward to see in 



206 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

her maternal solicitude what could be 
done, but Matthew totally eclipsed her. 
He was everything now, as he crouched 
beside the sofa whispering loving words, 
as though he knew they would have the 
occult power of bringing Claire back to 
consciousness, and he was right. She 
opened her eyes and looked at him ; then 
she closed them again, as though afraid she 
was deceived in what she saw ; yet it must 
be true, was not the voice for which she 
had pined so long once more uttering 
words of love ? She opened them again 
and looked into Matthew's face ; and all the 
past neglect, coldness, and hesitation were 
forgotten on the instant, forgotten as though 
they had never been. 

But Lady Laura was by no means so for- 
giving. She was angry with Matthew, very 
angry ; the more so perhaps because he had 
come now, than she would have been if he 
had not come at all. 



Loving Words. 207 

1 Why should he treat Claire in such a 
manner if he really cared for her ? ' she 
asked herself as she watched them there. 
'If he had grown indifferent about her, 
or had determined to be guided by his 
family, she could understand his behaviour ; 
but to love her, and yet neglect her out of 
mere caprice, was past all tolerance.' 

' Get up, Matthew, and come away ; you 
are making Claire quite ill,' she said at last, 
taking him by the shoulder, as though to 
force him into giving her once more posses- 
sion of her child ; her anger against him 
being for the moment stronger than the 
knowledge that his presence was Claire's 
salvation ; but the girl's pleading eyes were 
raised to her mother, as she clasped her 
thin hands together, and laid them on 
Matthew's head as he still knelt beside 
the couch. 

' Do not send him away, mother, I am 
happy — so happy now.' 



208 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

They were the first words Claire had 
spoken since Matthew came, and they told 
the mother at once how totally incapable 
she was to perfect her child's happiness, 
even though she sacrificed her own. She 
walked away at Claire's appeal, and stood 
looking out of the window into the garden ; 
in her heart almost hating Matthew for the 
possession he had so incontestably taken of 
her treasure ; and yet only a week ago she 
had longed for his arrival and upbraided 
him most severely for his absence. So 
changeful and full of caprices is the human 
mind. 

For a long time Lady Laura stood at 
the window, only murmurs reaching her of 
the conversation which was going on at the 
other end of the room. It was a strange 
experience, one which in all her life she 
had never passed through before, that of 
feeling entirely put by and set at naught by 
the being who was as a part of herself. She 



Loving Words. 209 

had seen Claire fading from before her eyes, 
and she had to a certain degree grasped the 
reason of her gradual decline ;. yet she had 
never fully realised it as she did to-day, 
when with Matthew's unexpected appearance 
life and hope and interest had so thoroughly 
and suddenly been awakened. Matthew 
had seated himself on a low footstool beside 
Claire's couch, and, happy in their union, 
neither of them guessed the tumultuous 
feelings the picture of their happiness had 
called up in Lady Laura's heart. 

1 And you do not love that queenly 
Valentina ? It is quite true — quite. You 
will tell me the entire truth, won't you, 
Matthew ? Never try to deceive either 
yourself or me,' Claire says, as, having 
risen from her recumbent position, she sits, 
her elbow on the cushions, her face resting 
on her hand, looking at Matthew. 

' I have admired Lady Valentina, respected 

her judgment ; but I have never loved any 
vol. in. o 



210 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

one but you ; I am sure of it — quite sure now 
since I see you again, my darling Claire. If 
I had only known how ill you were I should 
have — ' but she did not let him finish the 
sentence, for she asked, interrupting him, — 
' Does Lady Valentina love you ? ' 

* I don't think so. She is kind to me ; 
but no, she does not care for me, she is 
very cold and proud.' 

' Oh ! I am sorry, very sorry for Lady 

Valentina.' 

1 Sorry for her. Why, Claire ? ' 

' Because they say cold proud people love 

the deepest ; and I should be sorry, for any 

one who has suffered even the half that I 

have done of late.' 

* Claire ! what a base wretch you make 
me appear in my own eyes when you talk 
thus. Remember you yourself tried to 
break off the engagement between us.' 

1 Yes, Matthew, and I would do it again 
if I thought it was for your good. Con- 



Loving Words. 2 1 1 



■& 



sider the matter well, dear Matthew, and 
if you think that Lady Valentina will ever 
stand between us in the future, tell me at 
once honestly, and let this interview be our 
last. I am not saying this from jealousy. 
I am not jealous, save of your happiness ; 
so that is assured, I will strive to be con- 
tent/ but the last part of her sentence 
ended in a sob, showing how difficult it had 
been for Claire to speak this speech, and 
how unreal it was, believe it though she 
might strive to do ; but Matthew kissed 
away the rising tears. 

' Never, dear Claire, never; we have both 
passed through an ordeal of trial ; there is 
to be nothing but happiness for us in the 
future, besides, you did not run away abroad 
and send me to Coventry on Lady Valen- 
tina's account ; so don't pretend you did.' 

' No, Matthew, but because it was fitting 
that the heir of Vantage should be free to 
leave off his wooings or begin them all afresh.' 



2 1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 And now, my pet, we are going to start 
from a fresh standpoint, and wander to- 
gether in a country where there will be no 
clouds. I have turned another page in my 
life since we last met. Henceforth I am 
going to take counsel of no man, but follow 
the unbiassed dictates of my own feelings 
and opinions.' 

' Going to be obstinate, Matthew ? What 
a difficult man you will be to live with.' 
And there was such a twinkle of fun in 
Claire's eyes as she said this as had not been 
there this many a month, and which surely 
would have had the effect of delighting Lady 
Laura's heart had she been looking on, 
instead of obdurately turning her back on 
her daughter's happiness. But still they 
went on talking in low tones, and every 
now and then Claire's merry girlish laugh 
was heard, that silver laugh which for weeks 
past had been hushed ; and then at last 
she called out, — 



Loving Words. 



' Mamma, why do you stand there all 
alone ? Come and look at Matthew, see 
how bright and well he is looking.' 

Lady Laura turned round but did not 
move. Was all her anger against Matthew 
to merge into a welcome and a compliment 
about his looks ? No, since he had come, 
and her child was happy once more, at 
least she could afford to be dignified. Per- 
haps he saw what was passing in her 
mind, for he got up and went to her. 

1 Lady Laura, I have been to blame — 
grievously to blame. I will not excuse 
myself by saying I little guessed how 
unkindly I was behaving, though God 
knows it is true ; but acknowledge that I 
was selfishly taken up with my own affairs 
and vacillations. Claire has forgiven me ; 
will you not do so too ? ' 

1 Forgive you, Matthew ? Well I hope I 
forgive you ; but you have caused much 
unnecessary pain, and I don't know now 



2 1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

that the past can be remedied. Claire is 
very ill.' 

• Oh, I am better, mother ; don't frighten 
Matthew into thinking I am going to die.' 
Though, the excitement of meeting Mat- 
thew being passed, she looked pale and 
haggard enough to warrant any amount 
of anxiety. 

Once more Matthew was by her side. 

' If love can save her and make her 
strong again, love will not fail,' he said in 
his impetuous way. 

But Lady Laura shook her head ; she had 
ceased to believe in Matthew's outbursts. 
It was Claire, not himself, who made her 
stretch out to him the right hand of friend- 
ship, as she said, — 

1 Darling mother, for my sake, say just 
one little kind word to Matthew.' 

Thus appealed to, Lady Laura was forced 
into a concession, though it was scarcely 
given as graciously as might have been 



Loving Words. 215 

expected from one possessing the gentle- 
ness and loving kindness for which she was 
renowned. 

But Matthew had wounded her in her very 
heart's core ; it would take some time before 
the wound would heal over, and even then 
she must be always watchful, lest he should 
inflict a fresh one. She bade him welcome, 
however, and after a little while ceased to 
show her dissatisfaction quite so plainly. 
How could she be reservedly severe when 
she saw the long absent smiles wreathing 
once more about Claire's face, and heard 
her chattering gaily and discussing future 
plans ? Matthew of course dined with 
them, and Claire even tried to make a 
show of eating some dinner; though it 
was a very feeble effort. 

Lady Laura shook her head, as she 
wondered what the effect of all this undue 
excitement would produce. By the morrow 
she imagined Claire would be quite ill ; but 



2 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Lady Laura had scarcely calculated on the 
recuperative powers that youth possesses, 
when the mischief that produces languor 
and disease is once removed. The next 
morning when Lady Laura woke Claire 
was already up and singing like a lark 
in the little dressing-room she occupied 
next to her mother's room. It had been 
decided not to leave Mentone for a day or 
two, but that the tour among the Italian 
lakes should not be abandoned since it was 
certainly advisable on Claire's account, more 
•especially since her restoration to health 
would be the more rapid, from the fact 
that Matthew was to accompany them. It 
was useless for Lady Laura to ask him 
what his friends said in England, the only 
answer she received was, — 

' That his mother might rage, his father 
might object, counsellors might advise ; but 
that he did not intend to separate himself 
from Claire again till every arrangement 



Loving Words. 2 1 7 

was made for their marriage.' And so they 
all three started together for a pleasant 
tour, which had the effect of making Mat- 
thew's little white Snowdrop look each day 
more and more like a rose ; and even Lady 
Laura could not regret his coming to join 
them, since he brought with him life, where 
she feared death had already set its dreary 
mark. 





CHAPTER XIII. 

AN ULTIMATUM. 

HEN Mr Sivewright left Violet 
with the precious letters in his 
pocket, he took a hansom and 
drove straight to Hammersmith. At a 
seminary for young ladies, conducted on the 
strictest church principles, he stopped. It 
was somewhat of an anomaly that a protigde 
of Mr Sivewright should have been placed 
in a school where the tendencies of religious 
education were decidedly ritualistic ; but 
perhaps the circumstances of the case were 
such that he could not altogether exercise 
free will. He rang the bell, and on the 
door being opened by a tidy maid servant, 



An Ultimatum. 219 

he asked for Miss Brown. He was shown 
into a room of true conventual type, rigid 
both in its furniture and appointments, which 
were of the scantiest. The Rev. Lawrence 
looked round with a half sigh, as though 
he, with his luxurious tastes, could not forego 
a feeling of pity for those who were bereft 
of the adornments of life. He was not, how- 
ever, left many minutes to his reflections. A 
girl about fourteen came in very slowly, 
stopping to curtsey as soon as she had 
crossed the threshold of the door. 

Mr Sivewright went up to her and took 
her kindly by the hand, as she stood there 
with her head bent down, not daring to look 
at him ; in fact it was not till he himself 
raised her face by putting his hand under 
her chin, that he got the chance of seeing it 
at all. 

' Why, Lucy, your are not becoming less 
bashful, I fear. Come and sit down and 
tell me how you are getting on, child. 



220 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

You are surely not afraid of so old a friend ? 
Are you happy ? ' 

' Yes,' answered the girl very softly ; ' I 
suppose so.' 

' You suppose so. Now what does that 
mean ? Eh, little woman ? ' 

' There's a new girl here who tells me I 
don't know what happiness means.' 

Mr Sivewright had to bend his head so 
as to catch the words, they were uttered in 
so low a tone. He smiled when he did 
hear them. 

1 Very possibly. I should like to hear 
" the new girl's " definition of happiness.' 

Lucy could have told him, no doubt ; 
only she was afraid she had already said too 
much, especially as she fancied she detected 
a covert sneer in his answer, and Lucy was 
foolishly sensitive, and perpetually on the 
look-out for snubs. So there was a little 
pause, after which Mr Sivewright said more 
kindly, — 



An Ultimatum. 221 

1 I think I would rather have your views 
of happiness than the " new girl's." Tell 
me, my child, what should you like more 
than anything in the world ? ' 

She did not speak for a few seconds, then 
the almost whispered answer came slowly, — 

' I should like to leave this place and live 
in the country, where there would be trees 
and flowers.' 

Mr Sivewright's brow clouded over, and for 
a moment he thought how utterly fallacious 
was all attempt to work by system. This 
girl had been shut up in the Hammersmith 
Seminary since her earliest childhood ; she 
had scarcely ever been beyond its walls, in 
order that, knowing no other life, her educa- 
tion finished, she might pass her days either 
there or in some similar establishment as 
teacher, and now already was she panting 
for ' trees and flowers.' 

' What you ask it is not in my power to 
give you ; at all events not now. I am 



222 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



afraid you must make yourself content, my 
poor little Lucy.' 

She flushed up as he spoke, and then all 
the colour suddenly faded. Perhaps all her 
hope of release from thraldom had lain with 
Mr Sivewright, or she would scarcely have 
summoned up the courage to tell him of her 
longings. 

He stayed for quite half-an-hour talking 
with the girl, but not making much way. 
Since Lucy had discovered that there was 
no chance of any change in the programme 
of her life, she had relapsed into shyness, 
and only answered his questions in mono- 
syllables, thus giving him so much trouble 
to carry on the conversation that he was at 
last forced to give it up, and to send his 
little protdgde in search of the school-mistress, 
with whom he said he wished to exchange 
a few words. 

An hour later Mr Sivewright walked 
slowly along Hammersmith Mall, his arms 



An Ultimatum. 



crossed behind his back, his hat well on his 
brow, thinking, not of the almost classic 
ground on which he was treading in an at- 
mosphere rife with the spirits of departed 
genius, but of the little shy girl with straw- 
coloured hair and a baby waxen face, who 
was shut up in that grand old house by the 
river side. Scarcely was it surprising that 
Mrs Giles had fabricated a gossip and a 
scandal out of the mystery which connected 
Mr Sivewright with this child's career. Per- 
haps he would have been as well pleased 
if it had remained hidden from public gaze ; 
but since Violet Tremayne knew it, secrecy 
was no longer possible ; and it was not im- 
probable that that morning's conference with 
her might have some influence on the for- 
tunes of the little Lucy. 

Altogether it had been rather an eventful 
day to Mr Sivewright, who. never courted 
excitement, and in fact but rarely met with 
any occurrence of sufficient importance to 



224 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

arouse it. Still, for various reasons, the inci- 
dents of the last twenty-four hours had pro- 
duced an amount of stimulating interest 
which he but rarely felt, nor was the pro- 
gramme he had marked for himself at an 
end with this visit to Hammersmith. 

Having sauntered along the Mall very 
leisurely, he looked at his watch ; the hour 
it was nearly five, was so much later than 
he had imagined, that he hailed a cab 
forthwith, and desired the man to drive 
with all possible speed to the hotel in Jer- 
myn Street, where he usually located him- 
self when in London. Arrived there, he 
ordered some dinner to be prepared while 
he packed his portmanteau, and having eaten 
it he started, not on his return journey to 
Fernwood-cum-Grasdale, but to catch the 
tidal train en route for the French capital. 

Till those letters had been safely conveyed 
into ducal hands, Mr Sivewright did not con- 
sider that he had fulfilled his mission. 



An Ultimatum. 225 

He travelled straight through, arriving in 
Paris early in the morning ; and after break- 
fast and a rest, he presented himself at the 
Hotel Bristol, where the duke and duchess 
had taken up their quarters, about one o'clock. 

The duchess was shopping, the duke was 
alone ; thus luck favoured the vicar, who 
especially wished for a private interview 
with his grace. 

'Ah, Mr Sivewright! , 

The welcome was a hearty one ; to find a 
thoroughly diplomatic agent to perform such 
a friendly act as Mr Sivewright had just 
been executing for the duke was scarcely 
common, and therefore the more thoroughly 
appreciated ; for the duke knew by Mr 
Sivewright's presence in Paris that he 
had been successful. The first formalities 
of greeting over, he laid the sealed packet 
of letters on the table before himself. He 
did not hand it to the duke. 

1 The terms are accepted ; there is the 

VOL. TIL P 



226 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

signed paper. I do not think there will be 
any more trouble with Mrs Tremayne ; she 
has judged it expedient to exchange a 
grudgingly bestowed acquaintance for two 
hundred pounds a-year, paid quarterly/ and 
Mr Sivewright smiled cynically, and turned 
over the packet of letters which lay before him. 

I Thank you.' 

There was a moment's pause, during which 
the duke looked at the packet of letters. 
Then he said in rather a hesitating tone, — 

' You still advise that this matter should be 
kept a secret from the duchess/ 

I I not only advise, I insist,' answered Mr 
Sivewright haughtily. ' When you came to 
the vicarage a week ago, and confided to me 
that some officious person had written to you 
on the subject of certain unpleasant letters, 
which Mrs Tremayne had possessed herself 
of, belonging to the duchess, I then told you 
I could take no steps in the matter unless I 
was assured that, by doing so, there would 



An Ultimatum. 227 

be perfect concord between you and her 
grace in the future. This concord can 
never exist if the duchess is made aware of 
your interference. Such was my judgment 
then, the same it remains now.' 

There was a loftiness in Mr Sivewright's 
bearing as he uttered these words, which 
made the duke look a little nervous and feel 
as if he were on his trial, listening to the 
judge's verdict : he did not possess half the 
grandeur of character with which Mr Sive- 
wright was so conspicuously endowed. 

C I do not wish to depart from what we 
arranged — far from it. Julia shall never 
know from me that — but Mr Sivewright, 
what are you going to do with the letters ? ' 
' Give them to the duchess herself.' 
* Good gracious ! — on what pretext ? ' 
' Pastors, my dear duke, are in the habitual 
receipt of many confidences, and have, I hope, 
the power of healing many family differences. 
Believe me, the duchess will be as thankful 



228 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

as you are, that the society of Mrs Tremayne 
need no longer be imposed on her as a 
necessity.' 

' Then, Julia — the duchess has already 
told you— ' 

' Enough to make me feel that I am acting 
judiciously and loyally in advising you to let 
the matter drop in silence, assuring you at 
the same time that any indiscretions of 
which her grace may have been guilty in 
the past, are of such a nature that they 
cannot, even in the most remote way, affect 
the present. It was well to magnify them in 
order to be quit of Mrs Tremayne. That end 
accomplished, let them be buried in oblivion.' 
The rustle of a silk dress was heard in the 
outside passage, the door handle was touched, 
Mr Sivewright put the letters in his pocket 
just in time. The duchess walked into the 
room. 

1 In Paris ! — you, Mr Sivewright ! This 
is an unexpected pleasure.' 



An Ultimatum. 229 

1 Having a few days of leisure, I thought 
they could not be better bestowed than on a 
visit here, especially since you and the duke 
are honouring it with your presence/ 

I When did you come ? Are you staying 
in this hotel ? ' 

I I came this morning, and I am staying at 
the Grand.' 

' You will dine with us to-night ? Eh, 
Mr Sivewright ?' put in the duke. 

1 I shall be delighted.' 

' Oh ! that will be charming. We are 
going afterwards to the Francois ; the duke 
is going to be victimised, he hates French 
plays. Don't you, duke ? ' 

The carriage was soon after announced 
for a drive, but Mr Sivewright declined to 
accompany his friends, feeling that he re- 
quired an hour or two of solitude if 'he in- 
tended to enjoy their society and a French 
play in the evening. 

At an early dinner — that is early for 



230 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

English habits, about half -past six — 
they all met again, and the cloud which 
had been on the duke's face in the morn- 
ing seemed to have passed away. With 
reflection had come the wise decision to 
keep the golden silence Mr Sivewright 
had recommended, and to trust to his 
friend's judgment in this matter as he had 
already trusted to his competency in carry- 
ing out the details. A hard struggle had 
been going on in the duke's breast for 
some weeks past ; he had spoken quite 
truly when he had said that he would 
never forgive even the smallest indiscretion 
in his wife. He had meant it fully at the 
time he said it, nor perhaps would Mr 
Sivewright have succeeded in persuading 
him to do so now had it not been made 
quite clear to him that the duchess was 
unaware of his knowledge of her past 
foolishness. His dignity would be in no 
way compromised, he argued — a point 



An Ultimatum. 231 

about which, like his clerical adviser, he 
was rather a stickler ; and probably love 
for his fair wife, and a sort of fear of 
casting a shadow across their happiness, 
had more weight in the matter than he 
would altogether have cared to own. Hav- 
ing arrived at this conclusion, the duke 
took the trouble to be pleasant, and not 
for a long time had he appeared so affable 
and so genial as on the evening of Mr 
Sivewright's arrival, even stopping in the 
foyer long after the second act of Hernani 
had begun, in order to give the duchess 
and her confidant an opportunity of settl- 
ing for ever the question of those hateful 
letters. 

1 Now I know why you came to Paris ; 
how good of you ! ' the duchess had said, 
as he presented them without speaking. 
' And the price, Mr Sivewright, what is 
the price ? I had a few lines from Lady 
Valentina to-day. She says that she re- 



232 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

joices to tell me her dear father has quite 
given up all idea of that marriage/ 

* Just so — yes. So I have heard.' 

* Then how have you become possessed of 
these ? ' 

' By means of a little diplomacy, the 
details of which would scarcely interest 
you. I have learned many facts about Mrs 
Tremayne ; do not let us enter into them, 
dear duchess ; suffice it that you have the 
letters, and that Mrs Tremayne's name may 
in future be struck off your visiting list/ 
'How? She has agreed to — ' 
1 Drop the acquaintance, at my request.' 
' Oh, Mr Sivewright, how delightful ! I 
am so glad ! You have indeed lifted an 
incubus off my life ! ' 

The vicar smiled as he thought of the 
fibril texture of that diaphonous fabric 
called ' female friendship.' 

' But will you not tell me how all this has 
been accomplished ? ' 



An Ultimatum. 233 

1 No, my dear duchess. I don't feel 
justified in exposing all Mrs Tremayne's 
weak points, even to you. Suffice it that 
you are free, Mrs Tremayne will in future 
live abroad, so no questions will be asked 
about the cessation of your intimacy.' 

' Thank God ! ' And this exclamation of 
relief and thanksgiving ended all conver- 
sation on the subject, which neverthe- 
less for some time to come would usurp a 
great portion of her grace's thoughts. 

When the duke returned to his place at 
her side, he read at once on her face that 
the future absence of Violet Tremayne from 
her daily companionship was by no means 
regretted, and as she moved her ample 
satin skirts to make room for him to draw 
his chair nearer to her, there was an ex- 
pression half of tenderness, half of confi- 
dence in her eyes which made him inwardly 
rejoice that he had listened to the vicar's 
advice, and not allowed the jealous ten- 



234 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

dencies of his nature to get the upper 
hand. 

1 How can I ever repay you for all your 
kindness ? ' the duchess whispered, as she 
leant on the Rev. Lawrences arm on their 
way out of the theatre, the duke being a 
few steps in advance. 

1 You may be called on to render me 
your assistance sooner than you expect/ he 
answered in the same tone. 

' You ! How can I help you ? Believe, 
whatever it is, I will do it thoroughly.' 

4 There are episodes in most men's lives 
when a woman's help is invaluable. Per. 
haps I am on the eve of passing into one 
of them.' 

' What do you mean ? ' 

Mr Sivewright smiled. 

' I mean that at fifty I am beginning to 
think that man was not intended to live 
alone.' 

The duchess gave a little start as she 



An Ultimatum. 235 

looked at him in some surprise. She had 
probably deemed that this man was to be 
for aye her devoted slave, the right to 
his attentions being disputed only with Mrs 
Desborough. She recovered herself, how- 
ever, at once before he had time to note 
the momentary astonishment. 

1 You are going to marry — ' 

1 Stay, my dear duchess, I have by 
no means arrived at that point. Many 
delicate negotiations on your part 
will be necessary before my hopes are 
crowned.' 

'Negotiations on my part! Why, who 
is to be the future — ' 

'Lady Valentina Beaurepaire.' 

' Charming — delightful ! How many pleas- 
ant surprises you have afforded me, Mr 
Sivewright ! ' And every idea of art arriere 
pensde seemed to have left the duchess's 
mind. 

' Then you will help me to win her ? ' 



236 Sackcloth and Broadcloth . 

' With all my heart. Come and talk it 
over to-morrow morning/ 

They shook hands warmly, and parted at 
the carriage door. 

1 Only fancy, Montarlis, Mr Sivewright 
wants to marry Valentina/ exclaimed the 
duchess as they drove off. ' Since Matthew 
Desborough has determined to be faithful 
to that pink-faced little Miss Bailey, about 
which I fancy Valentina is just a trifle 
hipped, nothing could turn out more satis- 
factory. What do you think ? ' 

' I agree with you, my love ; Sivewright 
is a man we must all respect. I suppose 
Beaurepaire will think it a good enough 
marriage for Lady Valentina.' 

1 Of course he will— he must. Why, Mr 
Sivewright comes of a very good family, and 
is altogether a most superior being. I know 
some one, however, who will not be pleased 
— Mrs Desborough. It will be rather amus- 
ing to note her little manoeuvres to appear 



An Ultimatum. 237 

as if she were not disappointed. Dear me, 
how funnily things do unravel themselves in 
this world.' 

And the duchess gave a little sigh — it was 
one of relief. 

They reached the Hotel Bristol at this 
juncture ; when they got into the full light 
of the hall, she remarked that the duke 
looked unusually beaming and satisfied. 
The query crossed her mind for a moment, 
could he have been jealous of Mr Sive- 
wright ? She little guessed how much he 
thanked the vicar as he looked forward to 
a cloudless future. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



SOFT PINK LAMPS. 




HE first spring weather is glad- 
dening the hearts of Londoners. 
Open carriages are dashing hither 
and thither with ladies in bright toilettes 
of the latest Parisian fashion. Bond Street 
and Piccadilly are in a state of blo.ck, only 
kept from being positively dangerous by the 
efficiency of a brigade of police. Noise and 
bustle with business and pleasure fighting 
for predominance prevail everywhere, the 
Metropolis being what is technically called 
crammed ; every house has its inmates, no 
dreary-looking shutters — for they are dreary, 
however artistically painted — meet the eye, 



Soft Pink Lamps. 239 

and scarcely a bill announcing that apart- 
ments are to be let is to be seen in any 
of the fashionable quarters. It is acknow- 
ledged, even by tradespeople, to be a good 
season, and verily there is no dearth of rout 
and reception, concert and crowd. Even 
Lady Valentina has awakened from her 
usual indolent indifference, just one degree 
of flurry seeming to reflect itself on her 
from the tempestuous rushing throng with 
which she moves. There is more colour 
in her cheeks than there used to be, more 
lustre in her eyes ; yet Matthew is a 
declared defaulter in homage. 

Since he had rushed off abroad as 
suddenly as he had arrived at Vantage, 
Lady Valentina had scarcely heard from 
him, though she had received a long letter 
from Mrs Desborough, giving a very diffuse 
account of how obstinately he abided by his 
engagement to Claire Bailey, and how she 
would rather see him lying in his grave 



240 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

beside poor George than know him to be 
married to that pink-faced chit. 

Valentina had thrown the letter from her 
with an outburst of feeling to which she 
did not usually give way, and sat for a 
while her head resting on her arms, then 
all the proud blood of her ancestors mounted 
in her veins, and a quarter of an hour later, 
when she lifted her head, her cheeks were 
red, her eyes were flashing ; in a fortnight's 
time neither flash nor colour had faded, and 
there was a feverishness about her mien 
which made her father just a little anxious, 
though she assured him there was nothing 
amiss with her, she was enjoying the season 
and the balls excessively. 

' She had no cause for annoyance/ she 
said, ' now that all the fear of his marrying 
that dreadful little adventuress was at an 
end ; ' a remark which caused his lordship's 
high forehead momentarily to contract into 
a frown, for he still had a pleasing recollec- 



Soft Pink Lamps. 241 

tion of Violet Tremayne, and did not mind 
acknowledging that his feelings had been 
made subject to his judgment. This was a 
state of affairs which could scarcely have 
been brought about, save with a proud man ; 
nor would he in this instance have paid 
attention to any of Valentina's pathetic 
appeals, or even the duke's or Mr Sive- 
wright's statements, had not he himself seen 
Violets stolen interview with Cheap Jack 
Varley. 

Potently then, father and daughter having 
summoned all their pride, they were both 
struggling against circumstances, Valentina 
acknowledging nothing, the earl occasionally 
regretting that high breeding had not in 
this instance gone hand by hand with beauty 
and brightness and wit. Sometimes he 
would allude in surprised terms to Matthew's 
silence ; but Valentina never encouraged him 
to discuss the subject, and he was far too 
grand and large souled to bring the word 

VOL. III. Q 



242 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ingratitude into his talk of Matthew, as 
many an equally honest-hearted but less 
noble-minded man would have done. They 
had given dinners, not a few, in the sump- 
tuous Belgrave Square dining-room, and 
Valentina, to the no small surprise of some 
of their guests, had been quite conversa- 
tional and affable. Having something to 
hide had roused her moral energy. Lord 
Castletowers had proposed and been refused, 
without the matter receiving a second 
consideration. This happened before the 
Duchess of Montarlis returned from Paris, 
or perhaps she would have brought a little 
friendly pressure to bear on Valentina in 
this matter. 

1 Dinners palled and grew monotonous,' 
Valentina said, and 'dancing was a bore, 
especially as the weather was becoming hot/ 
so she persuaded his lordship to engage the 
famous new singer Madlle. Fiesole at an 
almost fabulous sum, and invite all fashion- 



Soft Pink Lamps. 243 

able London to a concert. Of course there 
were numberless stars of a lesser magnitude 
in Fiesole's train, and the approaching con- 
cert was expected to be unsurpassable in 
talent. For ten days at least before the 
evening on which it was to take place it 
was the subject of endless conversation, 
and many were the heart-burnings of those 
individuals who aspired to belong to good 
society, and yet had not crossed the im- 
penetralia of that exclusive set to which 
the Beaurepaires belonged. The Duke and 
Duchess of Montarlis arrived in town just 
as the invitations were being sent out ; her 
grace seemed to have profited greatly by 
the change, and looked far less white and 
preoccupied than she had done when she 
left England, nor did she seem at all to 
miss her quondam shadow, Mrs Tremayne, 
who had suddenly gone abroad, leaving her 
house in an agent's hands to be let. 

A stereotyped account of the lights and 



244 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

flowers and general splendour which pre- 
vailed at the Beaurepaire fete would be 
neither amusing nor instructive ; still less a 
detailed description of the toilettes of the 
high dames who streamed up the staircase 
in crowds ; suffice it to say, that when the 
duke and duchess arrived, they were accom- 
panied by Mr Sivewright, and that Lady_ 
Valentina received him with a very sweet 
smile, and looked superbly regal in her soft 
white satin dress, with no ornament, save 
some pearls, her father's last gift, twined in 
her glossy hair. The Rev. Lawrence just 
slightly squeezed the little gloved hand she 
held out to him, and passed on into the 
glittering throng, visions of a bishopric rising 
pleasantly in his mind, with Lady Valentina 
for coadjutrix in the pastoral charge. He 
had none of Mr Lently's scruples on the 
subject of matrimony, and had only remained 
a celibate till he was well over fifty, for the 
reason that never before had he found any 



Soft Pink Lamps. 245 

woman of sufficiently high station and dig- 
nity to fill so important a position as that 
of his honoured wife and helpmeet. Mr 
Sivewriorht soon met a few old friends of 
his early London days in the throng, for he 
always had had the entree into some of the 
best houses in London ; still of later years, 
shut up in his country parish, notwithstand- 
ing the companionship of such women as 
the duchess and Mrs Desborough, he had 
grown rusty. No one knew it so well as 
he did himself. 

When standing in the vortex in Lord Beau- 
repaires drawing-room he felt quite outside 
the torrent of babble which forms the sum 
total of London society. He scarcely re- 
gretted it, however, for though he loved 
society, especially as the word is understood 
by highly bred, well-educated people, yet 
there was a very cynical expression on 
his face, as leaning against a door, he 
watched the people as they passed him on 



246 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

their way to the concert room. Music had 
no especial charms for Mr Sivewright, so 
he had placed himself where he could hear 
just as much of the great Fiesole as pleased 
him, and yet make a retreat into the cooler 
rooms if he were bored ; added to which, 
perhaps he had other reasons for wishing 
to give himself free ingress and egress on 
that particular evening. The brilliant pro- 
gramme was half over, and he was still 
standing, statue - like, at the outer door, 
almost alone as it were, for the vast crowd 
was in front of him listening with strained 
ears and engrossed senses to the magical 
trill of Fiesole's voice. There was a deep 
silence save for its clear notes ; he heard 
the almost inaudible frou-frou of a woman's 
dress close to him. 

He turned his head suddenly — the Lady 
Valentina. 

1 Not listening to Fiesole ? ' she said, with 
some little surprise in her voice. 



Soft Pink Lamps. 247 

They were too far off for their low- 
toned conversation to interfere with the 
enjoyment of others. 

1 And you ? ' 

'Oh, I am hostess, therefore compelled 
to play the skirmisher on the look out for 
late comers.' 

' Otherwise you would be in the very 
centre of that room, and perfectly happy. 
Eh?' 

' I am very fond of music,' she answered, 
1 but as for enjoying, well — no, I do not 
enjoy anything in a crowd.' 

1 But you like London life ? ' 

' Do I ? I think not. I believe I am 
very tired of it ; but it suits papa better 
than any other, he misses his club when 
we are in the country ? ' 

1 And you, Lady Valentina, do you really 
mean to say that you would be content to 
live a country life ? ' 

1 I ? Oh yes, I should like it. I take a 



248 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



part in this turmoil because I belong to 
it, but I infinitely prefer quietude and 
regular hours. What many people would 
term monotony would be a pleasure to me.' 

' Cocks and hens and sick people ; do you 
think you could ever tolerate them ? ' he 
said, half cynically. 

' For poultry I have a perfect passion. If J 
lived in the country, to have rare specimens 
of poultry would be my special delight ; and 
as for sick people, I hope I am not so hard- 
hearted as to have no kindly feeling for 
them,' and she looked up at him with a smile. 

Perhaps in connection with Matthew Des- 
borough Lady Valentina had had these things 
much in contemplation of late, it was then 
somewhat of an ordeal through which Mr 
Sivewright was forcing her to pass. He never 
dreamed of this, but said very fervently, — 

' Hard-hearted — no, never should I be such 
a barbarian as to deem you hard-hearted ; on 
the contrary, I was about to appeal mo 



Soft Pink Lamps, 249 

ardently to your large-heartedness, by asking 
you to overlook some of the many faults 
which are glaringly apparent in my character 
and habitation, and to share with me my 
modest home. If — ' 

' With you, Mr Sivewright ! ' the exclama- 
tion was one savouring more of surprise than 
satisfaction, but it did not arrest his suit. 
Once having launched his bark of love, he 
was determined not to withdraw it, because 
the waters into which it had drifted were 
scarcely rippleless. If it could not weather 
the first squall, there was little hope for the 
future, so all his knowledge of navigation 
must be brought to bear. 

1 With me, Lady Valentina. Is my poor 
homage so small a tribute that it is met by 
scorn ? ' 

' Oh no, I did not mean that at all, but 
you have taken me so much by surprise.' 

Mr Sivewright's wife ! and Lady Valen- 
tina mused, perhaps she was a little flattered 



250 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

by the immense compliment she felt she had 
been paid, at all events she considered the 
position seriously, while he poured forth a 
torrent of the ablest words he had at com- 
mand. They might have been gibberish for 
anything she heeded, the one fact that he had 
asked her to marry him was so clearly before 
her, that she paid no attention to the rapid 
torrent into which he had learnt on a sudden 
to give his passion vent ; but when he had 
finished she smiled and looked coyly at him, 
as though she were half afraid of his iron- 
grey locks, and yet admired the man for 
the daring with which he had ventured to 
woo her. Encouraged by her aspect he took 
her hand — she did not attempt to withdraw 
it. The bark suddenly found itself moored 
in a bay, and the goddess of the stream 
forgot to agitate the waters. 

Once more the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright 
put the direct question, would she share his 
vicarage and his fortune ? This time to 



Soft Pink Lamps. 251 

receive a distinct affirmative, though spoken 
in a whisper. If there were more of pride 
than of love in the answer, she was scarcely 
the sort of woman to make him feel it in the 
future. 

He had come to the rescue of her pride in 
an hour of pique, and with her life she would 
show her oratitude. Gratitude ! was that the 
warmest feeling Mr Sivewright could evoke 
after spending so many years in a vain 
search after perfection ? Yes, if even Lord 
Castletowers had proposed a week later, when 
she was quite sure of Matthew's defalcation, 
he might perchance have been equally well 
received. But knowing though Mr Sive- 
wright did of Matthew's love for Valentina, 
it yet never occurred to him that she, a 
regal beauty, cared for the stripling heir of 
Vantage, handsome though he was. " Re- 
gard, interest, was the warmest feeling he 
supposed she felt for Matthew Desborough, 
or he had scarcely put himself in the posi- 



252 Sackcloth aiid Broadcloth. 

tion of being thought of Matthew's rival. 
It mattered little, however ; Lady Valentina 
had made a confidante of no one on the 
subject, and she was never likely herself to 
divulge this secret to Mr Sivewright, since 
she had consented to be his wife. 

They sauntered away from the door into 
an ante-room, where ' a little glooming light 
much like a shade ' was shed by some soft 
pink lamps, and sat down on a blue 
satin sofa, in a solitude as complete as 
though they had been sitting under some 
old elm in the Vantage woods. Mr Sive- 
wright's talk was of the future, Lady 
Valentina's heart was in the past, yet she 
listened with seeming interest and made 
becoming answers to his remarks ; he could 
not tell that she was comparing him in 
her mind, though perhaps not wholly un- 
favourably, with Matthew. 

From her ready acceptance of Mr Sive- 
wright it may be inferred that Lady 



Soft Pink Lamps. 253 

Valentina had cooled somewhat in her 
ritualistic views of late, that with her, as 
with Mrs Desborough, the party to which 
she professed to belong, changed with the 
creed of the favourite preacher pro tern. 

The fact was that Lady Valentina was 
a true woman ; she had no creed, was 
shackled by no dogmas, she believed firmly 
in the Bible and Common Praver-book of 
the English Church, without inquiring very 
curiously into what they taught or what 
logical proof there was of their divine 
origin. 

Though she tried to be honest and con- 
scientious and loving, she had been so 
perplexed and worried on religious matters 
of late, that she felt it was another debt 
of gratitude she should owe Mr Sive- 
wright if he took the burden of hen con- 
science upon him and supported it patiently. 
In the little boudoir then, among the soft 
pink lamps, the vows of these lovers were 



254 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

plighted, with no less tender romance on 
the one side, because the divine was ap- 
proaching three score ; with no less as- 
sumption of an interest she did not 
altogether feel on the part of the lady, 
because her rank and fortune would have 
enabled her to mate with the noblest in 
the land. 

To quote one of Mr Sivewright's favourite 
poets, — 

1 Hoc non fit verbis ; ut ameris ama.' 

Let us hope that Lady Valentina, grow- 
ing in love as she journeys farther from 
the land of regret, may reciprocate to the 
fullest an honest man's affection, and never 
deplore the hour when she gave her word 
to ' love, honour, and obey ' the Rev. 
Lawrence Sivewright. 



CHAPTER XV. 



LAYING A GHOST. 




RS TREMAYNE elected to re- 
turn to the old pleasant hunting 
grounds. If she could not com- 
mand a position in society's world, and reign 
as one of fashion's queens, at least she would 
not be moped ; but would indulge to the 
fullest in her inordinate craving for excite- 
ment. Thanks to the duke's annuity, added 
to her own small income, she was in com- 
paratively easy circumstances, especially if 
she did not attempt to vie with the rich 
aristocracy of London. She took a little 
villa in the neighbourhood of Monaco, with 
a sort of hopeful idea that she could not fail 



256 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to double her income. Violet knew full 
well that high play had brought her father's 
and her own fortunes down to their very 
lowest ebb ; yet, no way sobered by the 
lesson, she was as keen for the venture as 
though she had been the merest tyro at the 
green table. In a few days, by a touch with 
her magic wand, she turned the villa which, 
badly furnished, had had nothing to recom- 
mend it but its beautiful site, into a perfect 
little paradise. No one knew so well as 
Violet Tremayne how to make a little money 
go a long way, or how to call forth surpris- 
ing effects out of what to most people would 
seem colourless impossible materials. Hav- 
ing established herself then not only com- 
fortably, but luxuriously, she went into the 
great salle at Monte Carlo in search of ac- 
quaintances. She had not proceeded very 
far before she espied young Leverton. 

' Ah,' she said, holding out her hand to 
him, ' you are the very man. You can tell 



Laying a Ghost. 257 



me heaps of things I want to know. Who 
is everybody ? I have not been in these 
parts for ages, and a new generation seems 
to have sprung up.' 

Mr Leverton thought for a moment of the 
Baileys, and how Lady Laura had asked 
that very question, then looked shocked at 
his answers ; he did not, however, apprehend 
any such contingency with Mrs Tremayne* 
and set himself to the task she had given 
him very freely, calling forth numberless 
laughs from the frisky little widow, as he 
proceeded with a somewhat exaggerated 
description of the eccentricities and habits 
of the people by whom they were sur- 
rounded. Still Monaco was by no means at 
its fullest — the hot weather had driven many 
of the habitues northwards — it was only 
the most ardent lovers of play who ventured 
to linger on in the heat. Violet herself had 
got such a coolly situated villa, with such 
lovely grounds round it, that to her the time 

VOL. III. R 



258 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

of year mattered but little ; besides, come fair 
weather come foul, had she not selected this 
place for a permanent residence. And a 
rare addition to the Monte Carlo society 
was Violet likely to prove, especially if she 
fulfilled her golden expectations ; for that 
she would keep open house there is small 
doubt. 

1 Are you going in to play ? ' asked Mr 
Leverton at last, after their talk had lasted 
for some time. 

' No, not to-day. I am just looking about 
me a little. I shall begin work in earnest 
to-morrow.' 

1 Why waste valuable time ? ' 

' Oh, I believe I am just a wee bit super- 
stitious — to-day is Friday, you know. Don't 
laugh at me.' 

1 Laugh at you ! are not all gamblers 
superstitious ? We should not be gamblers 
unless we believed in luck.' 

' Just so, and as we are on the subject I 



Laying a Ghost. 259 

don't mind owning that I am rather inclined 
to quarrel with the omens and auguries just 
now.' 

' In what way ? ' 

' Well, if the Villa Tadela, which I have 
taken, were not newly built, I should say it 
was haunted.' 

' A ghost story at Monte Carlo ! Oh, Mrs ' 
Tremayne, it wanted but that to make up 
the sum total of its delights. Your luck is 
certainly in the ascendant since it falls to 
your lot to supply one.' 

' I don't see anything very delightful in 
a ghost story. I hate weird dreary things, 
not that I have exactly seen a ghost, only 
there is something supernatural about, I do 
believe.' 

Mr Leverton looked a little incredulous ; 
but Violet was not daunted. 

1 You shall come into my grounds to-night 
after sunset and see what you shall see, 
unless indeed you are afraid.' 



2 do Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Afraid of a ghost ! ' and he laughed. 
1 The only ghost that I am afraid of is 
poverty/ 

Then it is settled that you will come over 
to the Villa Tadela this evening about nine, 
and that you will walk conscientiously for 
a whole half-hour about the grounds.' 

* On one condition, yes. That you will 
accompany me.' 

' Now, do you suppose the ghost will 
appear if we are chattering there ? ' 

' Oh, we will be quite silent, and walk on 
tiptoe if you like.' 

* Very well, only I shall also make my 
condition, that if you do not see the ghost 
to-night, you will go in search of it to- 
morrow night alone.' 

' Agreed ; and now instead of going home 
to think about ghosts and miseries, suppose 
you come and dine with me in the public 
room. It is past six.' 

•Well, I don't mind if I do,' was Mrs 



Laying a Ghost. 261 

Tremayne's answer, by which it may be in- 
ferred that it was her absolute intention to 
leave all the conventionalities de rigueur in 
good society utterly behind her, in the old 
career from which she had parted for ever. 
And, verily, this sort of hap-hazard life was 
far more in accordance with Violet Tre- 
mayne's proclivities than the more mono- 
tonous and carefully guarded one, into which 
she had endeavoured for a while to thrust 
herself. 

Mr Leverton ordered an appetising little 
repast, with an accompaniment of ' Roederer 
pour la grande Bretagne] as the waiter in- 
variably expressed it ; perhaps Mr Leverton 
thought it would serve to lay Violet's ghost, 
or at all events give them some courage to 
go in search of it. Truly, if noise and 'tall 
talk' and glare in anyway represent courage, 
it existed in overflowing abundance in the 
Monte Carlo dining-room. 

Dinner was a long process, the digester in 



262 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the form of much conversation with several 
acquaintances being taken into consideration, 
and it was already half-past eight when 
Violet and her preux chevalier stood once 
more in the open air and looked at the full 
moon, which was shedding down on them 
floods of pale soft light. 

' Come up to the villa and have some 
coffee, then we will go for our little stroll.' 

Nothing loth, he acquiesced, and they 
went together, making the terraces resound 
with their gay chatter. Anything more un- 
like being impressed by a ghost panic could 
not well be imagined. 

They drank their coffee, and Mr Leverton 
admired the luxurious arrangement of the 
pretty villa, till a somewhat awful ' Now,' 
enunciated in orthodox ghost tones by 
Violet, recalled him to a recollection of the 
wherefore that had brought him to the Villa 
Tadela. 

1 Shall we take a revolver or the poker ? ' 



Laying a Ghost. 263 

he asked, still slightly exhilarated by the 
'' Roederer pour la grande Bretagnel of 
which it could scarcely be said that he had 
drunk sparingly. 

I Nonsense, Mr Leverton ; be serious for 
once in your life, if it be possible.' 

' Serious ? You surely do not mean that 
this play is anything more than a joke ? ' 

I I am perfectly serious. Come, and not 
a word, remember/ 

He went through a pantomimic display of 
coercing his feelings into a courageous ap- 
pearance, and followed her into the garden. 
The moon had hidden itself behind a cloud, 
and a gloom had superseded the almost 
dazzling brightness of half-an-hour ago. 

There was something intensely comic in 
the mute procession-timed march in which 
they made the circuit of the grounds, Mr 
Leverton shrugging his shoulders when they 
returned to their starting point, as though 
to insinuate that a vast amount of nothing 



264 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

had been accomplished ; but to Violet's stern 
4 Again ' he responded by following her at 
once. This time, arrived at a long arbour 
which had been erected to serve as a heat 
refuge, she stopped, and laying her hand on 
Mr Leverton's arm, pressed it gently. There 
was something moving among the foliage. 
Was it a man, an animal, or a spirit ? 

Violet was prepared to declare for the 
latter ; but Mr Leverton said this time in 
sober earnest, — 

* If I only had my revolver/ 

She answered by a ' Hush,' and her hand 
still laid on his arm as though she would 
assure herself of the presence of at least 
one human being, she walked on slowly, 
drawing him with her ; the undefinable 
shadow, for it was nothing more, following 
them closely a little to the right. They 
went up to some steps leading directly into 
the villa, where they stopped. The ghost 
stopped too. 



Laying a Ghost. 26 



At that moment the moon looked forth 
from behind the cloud. It was the figure 
of a man that was passing among the foliage. 
That there was no denying, though they 
could not see his face distinctly. Violet 
gave a little half-cry as though of pain 
and dropped her hold of Mr Leverton's 
arm. 

' Mrs Tremayne, this adventure frightens 
you, pray go into the house while I punish 
this rash offender.' 

1 No,' she said very decidedly ; 'do as I 
bid you. You go into the house — take the 
light that is in the drawing-room, carry it 
up to a room on the first floor, third door 
from the staircase on the left, and bring 
from there a whistle and a whip, which you 
will find on a chest of drawers. I will 
remain here till you return.' 

' But are you sure you are not — ' 

The form in the bushes moved as though 
coming nearer to them. 



266 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

1 Go at once. I am brave enough, only 
obey me.' 

She watched him as he ran up the steps 
and into the house, then she turned and sped 
off at her swiftest towards the ghost. 

' So you thought to frighten me,' she said 
breathlessly when she reached him, ' this 
foolhardy trick might have cost you your 
life. Why are you here at all ; and what 
do you want ? ' 

c You/ he replied briefly, as he took off 
his cap, and Cheap Jack Varley's features 
were plainly visible in the moonlight. ' I 
shall follow you, Pearl, wherever you go.' 

' My friend, the gentleman who was with 
me, has gone for a horse-whip. I sent 
him.' 

Jack Varley smiled. 

' If I have borne your sneers, I can bear 
his thrashing.' 

For a second there was a little puzzled 
look on her face, then she said, — 



Laying a Ghost. 267 

1 1 never knew before that it required 
so much bravery to endure ; but look you, 
Jack, this is all nonsense, we must come to 
terms. I will not, will never marry you — 
nothing shall make me ; fear of death 
wouldn't ; but you shall take care of me as 
a faithful dependant if you like. Will that 
do?' 

' Till you think fit to give your hand to — ' 

1 Hush — here comes Mr Leverton with 
a light, vanish while I get rid of him.' 

His hat pushed back off his head, a lamp 
in one hand a whip and whistle in the other, 
Mr Leverton at this juncture began slowly 
to descend the steps. He paused when he 
found Violet was not in her place ; she 
speedily returned to it, however. 

' It is all right, Mr Leverton, you ,are too 
late, the ghost has disappeared down the 
hill. I screwed up my courage and went 
to have a last look at him.' 

' Shall I follow him ? ' 



268 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

'On your life, no. He might lure you 
into some awful danger.' 

' But what will you do, Mrs Tremayne ? 
You will never be able to live in this villa 
alone ? ' 

' Oh yes, I think so. I have a faithful old 
servant coming to me very soon. He will lay 
all the ghosts in the principality of Monaco.' 

' But to-night ? Are you not afraid of 
sleeping in that house ? ' 

' Considering I have seen that ghost every 
night since I have been here, why should I 
be more afraid to-night ? ' 

Violet had with some difficulty awakened 
Mr Leverton's ghostly credulity, and now 
she did not find it easy to pacify it. At 
last, however, she succeeded in persuading 
him that ghosts never return twice in the 
same evening, and that therefore he might 
rest quite satisfied till the morrow, when, 
if he liked, they would go forth once more 
on the quest. 



Laying a Ghost. 269 

' But this time without finding the ghost,' • 
she muttered to herself, as having - shaken 
hands with her attendant squire, she shut 
and bolted the window and went upstairs 
to bed. 

After a few days a major-domo was 
appointed to the Tadela household, than 
whom no more faithful could be found. If 
he were at times a little officious, and over- 
zealous in the discharge of his duties, a 
fault which irritated the erratic Violet, 
she had, however, the good sense to re- 
member that, except Jack Varley, she had 
not a friend in the world — that he alone 
on the whole earth had cared sufficiently 
about her, to throw up his trade and follow 
her fortunes ; to live like a dog in fact for 
her sake, to be spoken kindly to or spurned 
according to the whim of the most capricious 
of mistresses. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



WEDDING WELCOMES. 



^T^pHE Vicarage of Fernwood-cum- 
Grasdale was in gala dress. The 
honeymoon of the Rev. Lawrence 
and Lady Valentina Sivewright had been 
passed at the country house of one of her 
noble relations, and they had come home 
about three days ago, under triumphal arches 
which had been erected at intervals in that 
portion of the parish through which they 
were to pass. The idea of a vicaress had 
set all the people on the alert ; their zeal 
in welcoming the bride not perhaps being 
lessened by the fact of her being a 'my 
lady.' 



Wedding Welcomes. 271 

The first Sunday had been got over, and 
Lady Valentina had shown herself demure 
and quietly dressed in her husband's church. 
She was perhaps scarcely as smiling and 
happy-looking as the honest, simple-minded 
parishioners expected, but that, they con- 
jectured, was no doubt owing to her exalted 
rank. 

Mrs Desborough, making use of her 
mourning as an excuse, had not been present 
at the marriage, which took place in London, 
and she shook hands with Lady Valentina 
for the first time as Mr Sivewright's wife 
under the porch of Fernwood Church. Al- 
though she had elected her for a daughter- 
in-law, she owed her a grudge for marrying 
her beloved vicar, and the meeting between 
the two ladies was consequently scarcely as 
cordial as their previous intimacy might have 
warranted. Mrs Desborough made very 
civil, well-turned speeches ; of these there 
was no scarcity, but from their very abund- 



272 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ance, perhaps, they showed that lack of 
sincerity which Valentina could not help 
feeling, as she foresaw that near neighbours 
though she and Mrs Desborough would be 
in the future, yet her visits to Vantage 
Park would be very periodical and never 
expected without a formal invitation. 

Mrs Desborough had by no means taken 
the same view of Mr Sivewright's marriage 
that the duchess had done ; thus the vicar 
had been quite right in the conclusions he 
arrived at anent the two women. But then 
poor Mrs Desborough, had she not been 
severely tried ? Her nerves had been much 
shaken by poor George's death, and since 
both Mr Sivewright and Matthew had turned 
aside from the progressive path she had 
marked out for them, was it to be expected 
that she should do otherwise than be dis- 
contented ? So in ' the winter of her discon- 
tent ' she turned in her search for ' glorious 
summer ' to the Rev. Luke Lently, who 



Wedding Welcomes. 273 

would give her the work of which there was 
but little to be found in Fernwood parish, 
and what little there was would henceforth 
be done by Lady Valentina, at least so she 
concluded. 

Although the Rev. Luke Lently felt the 
star of his importance to be somewhat in 
the ascendant at this juncture, naturally, 
he utterly and totally disapproved of his dear 
and reverend brothers marriage. But he 
so entirely approved of Matthew's, that this 
latter served as a counterpoise, and rendered 
him sufficiently amiable to enable him to go 
and pay his devoirs to the bride at Fern- 
wood, which he did on the Monday follow- 
ing the coming home, and to the astonish- 
ment of those of his own parishioners who 
saw them start; he was accompanied by 
Mrs Lently. 

Lady Valentina was most gracious. She 
had always had a kindly feeling towards Mr 
Lently, partly on Matthew's account and 

VOL. III. S 



274 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

partly because she believed in and admired 
his zeal. Mrs Lently she saw to-day for 
the first time, and it were useless to say she 
was not a little appalled by that good lady's 
eccentricities of dress and manner. 

' If this is a sample of vicar's wives, I 
have indeed married out of my sphere,' she 
thought ; but her breeding prevented her 
from showing any reflex of her thoughts to 
her visitors, and the talk flowed pleasantly 
enough for more than a quarter of an hour, 
when Mr Sivewright came into the room, and 
received with much unctuousness the good 
wishes which the Vicaress of Ravensholme 
thought fit to shower upon him. But good- 
hearted, well-meaning Mrs Lently was totally 
devoid of tact. She never could converse 
with any one for five consecutive minutes 
without saying the wrong thing, and her 
mental short-sightedness seemed to have in- 
creased, perhaps owing to nervousness, during 
the conversation with the Vicar of Fernwood. 



Wedding Welcomes. 275 

1 I went to Hammersmith about a fort- 
night ago to the school — my Molly is there, 
you know — and I saw Lucy Brown. Poor 
child, why don't you take her away from 
t here, Mr Sivewright ? She's not happy/ 

The Rev. Lawrence's brow grew crimson, 
Could it be possible that Lady Valentina 
had heard naught of Lucy Brown ? From 
the way in which she turned her attention 
from Mr Lently to his wife, it was almost 
apparent. 

' Why do you suppose it to be in my 
power to remove Lucy Brown from that 
school ? ' he asked rather sternly during an 
uncomfortable silence. 

1 Because she says you are the only person 
who ever goes nigh her, and that she looks 
to you alone for everything she has in the 
world. Poor child ! I was quite glad to be 
able to take her out with Molly and be just 
a little kind to her.' 

' I am sure Lucy Brown feels exceedingly 



276 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

indebted to you,' he said very coldly, as- 
suming his sternest, grandest manner, even 
making Mrs Lently ' shake all over like,' 
as she afterwards explained it to Mrs Giles ; 
and she was by no means one of those in- 
dividuals who are easily influenced by tone 
and voice. She did not mend matters either, 
by saying rather flurriedly, — 

' I hope I have not done anything amiss 
in taking the child out. Oh dear ! oh dear ! 
Somehow I am always doing the wrong 
thing when I mean to do the right one.' 

Mr Lently rose, he was invariably un- 
comfortable, ill at ease in his wife's society, 
and the turn affairs had taken made him 
more than usually so to-day. Mr Sive- 
wright, however, said more civilly, though 
still very stiffly, — 

1 1 assure you, my dear Mrs Lently, the 
obligation is on our side. Valentina, will you 
not join me in thanking Mrs Lently for her 
kindness to zprotdgde of mine ? ' 



Wedding Welcomes. 277 

Lady Valentina endorsed her husband's 
thanks with grave politeness, and the 
Lentlys took their leave ; Mrs Lently 
mentally determining that it would be a 
long while before she put her foot inside 
Fernwood Vicarage again. 

As a natural sequitur, the first question 
asked after the front door was closed on 
them was, — 

1 Who is Lucy Brown ? ' 

Mr Sivewright looked at his wife, then at 
his filbert nails, then once more at his wife ; 
at last he said in very clear but low tones, — 

' I cannot, may not tell you. She and 
the secret of her birth were confided to me 
on ja death-bed. An oath binds me to keep 
my word in looking after her and shielding 
her parents' name. Have you sufficient con- 
fidence in me to help me to keep it without 
asking questions ? ' 

Lady Valentina held out her hand to 
him. 



278 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' I am your wife, ought not that to be a 
sufficient answer ? ' 

He pressed the hand she had given him 
to his lips. 

1 Thank you, my love, thank you. Then, 
with your assistance, I hope we shall be 
able to make this poor child's life a brighter 
one. Till she is fifteen, I am bound to have 
her instructed in religion as it is understood 
by the ritualistic section of the church, after 
that age she is to choose for herself. She 
is turned fourteen now, and does not seem 
to appreciate her Hammersmith rule.' 

' Poor child, we will have her here and 
see if we cannot shed a little brightness and 
warmth over her life.' 

Mr Sivewright told his wife of little Lucy's 
craving for trees and a river, and it was soon 
arranged that her next vacation should be 
passed at Fernwood. What mattered gossip- 
ping tongues as long as husband and wife 
were at unity on the subject of Lucy Brown ? 



Wedding Welcomes. 



And so two or three weeks passed on 
happily enough for Valentina ; perhaps more 
happily than any time she had yet experi- 
enced in life. Every day she learned to 
care more and more for Mr Sivewright 
and to appreciate the luxurious tranquillity 
of her new home, revelling in a monotony 
which suited her in every respect better 
than the more turbulent variations of the 
world she had left. 

About this period Mr Sivewright, return- 
ing one day from some parish meeting, 
brought the news that the Baileys had ar- 
rived at Swanover, and that the marriage 
of Matthew and Claire was to take place 
forthwith. Lady Valentina had scarcely 
got over the sort of startle which this in- 
telligence occasioned her, when Matthew 
himself, in his old impetuous way, dashed in, 
rushing past the servant into the drawing- 
room, utterly regardless that etiquette de- 
manded that he should be properly announced. 



280 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

The meeting was a warm one on all 
sides ; perhaps Lady Valentina felt that she 
had nothing to regret, and Matthew, radiant 
with happiness, rejoiced that he had been 
true to his love and to himself, especially 
as he had no grounds for self-reproach as 
regarded Lady Valentina, in whom he hoped 
to secure a firm life-friend for Claire. 

Influenced thus by priest or parson, a 
change had passed over the actors in the 
life-drama which, during the last few months, 
had been playing itself out in the fair parishes 
of Fernwood and Ravensholme. 

If Mr Sivewright has seemed to accom- 
plish the larger share, owing to his more 
fully developed diplomatic powers, and to 
that importance which his physique and bear- 
ing lent even to his most trivial actions, it 
was perchance but another illustration of 
the time-honoured truism, that head gene- 
rally triumphs over heart in all worldly 
matters. Not that the latter organ was 



Wedding Welcomes. 281 



small in our sleek divine, far from it, but 
that the abnormal prominence of the head 
was apt to dwarf it to the common eye. 
The common eye ! the phrase gives the key 
as to why Luke Lently, like many a man 
of far superior parts, was a failure instead 
of a success. Intent upon higher things, 
he did not sufficiently respect the common 
eye. In the busy scuffle of life people will 
not take the trouble to dive into motives, 
or to make allowance for exaggerations. 
Yet ! Yet when all is said, it perhaps 
comes to this, that those very persons who 
would seek the respectable, the aristocratic 
Parsons counsel and assistance under the 
weight of mere worldly care, might fain fly 
nevertheless to the dusty, unfashionable and 
less logical Priest, when in an hour of ex- 
tremity the suffering soul cries aloud for 
spiritual guidance and help. 

THE END. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.